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Hundreds Are Missing After a Hydropower Dam Collapsed in Southern Laos

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Hundreds of people are missing and several are presumed dead after a hydropower dam collapsed in southeast Laos, state media reported.

The 410 MW project, which is under construction, collapsed around 8 p.m. local time on Monday, releasing 5 billion cubic meters of water, according to the Lao News Agency.

Several houses were reportedly swept away in the deluge, which prompted flash floods in several villages across Attapeu Province.

The News Agency said the incident has claimed “several human lives” while “several hundreds of people” remain missing. An estimated 6,660 people were displaced by the floods.

Local authorities have called for urgent aid supplies, including clothing, medicine, cash and drinking water.

The $1.02 billion hydropower dam is being built by the Xe Pian-Xe Namnoy Power Company (PNPC), a joint venture between South Korean, Thai and Lao firms.

The project began construction in 2013, and was expected to come online in 2018, exporting 90% of the electricity generated to Thailand, according to PNPC.

Environmental groups have long cautioned Laos over dozens of hydropower projects slated along the Mekong River, which could sever a major artery for the region.

Aiming to become the battery of Southeast Asia, Laos has laid out a hydropower development plan that includes 72 large projects, many of which target electricity exports rather than production for domestic usage.

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Write to Laignee Barron at Laignee.Barron@time.com