Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Vientiane flooding update

In case, as happened yesterday, the server for the Vientiane Times is busy, here is the latest from their website:

"Hundreds of families cut off by floods

There was a dramatic increase in the height of the Mekong River in Vientiane yesterday, as the river's height rose above flood danger levels.
Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh ( left ) and his delegation visit Kaoliew village.

The river hit 12.96m, well above the danger level of 12.50m, and the city is being threatened with flooding.

Officials are preparing for rising water levels by placing sandbags around the city, according to Vientiane Flooding and Drought Prevention Committee Head Vilasack Nammounty.

“I believe we can protect the city until the river reaches 14m, but I can't say what will happen if the water level exceeds 14m,” he said.

“We will keep a close eye on the situation and monitor information from forecasters closely.”

The river is expected to rise to 13.21m today and to 13.63m tomorrow, according to information from the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology.

Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh yesterday visited areas in Vientiane which are at risk of flooding, including Kaoliew village in Sikhottabong district.

More than 6,000 people from all government sectors are working to mitigate the situation, including officers from the national defence and public security ministries, district authorities and villagers.

Almost 400,000 sandbags have been distributed so far.

Sikhottabong district Governor Thongkhoun Sengdara said officials had collaborated with local people to sandbag areas of the riverbank which were at risk of overflowing.

District officials evacuated 60 families and their animals from Xingxou Island yesterday and took them to higher ground.

On August 11 residents were evacuated from Nongda and Dankham villages due to the flood risk.

Mr Thongkhoun said the district authority had appointed security officials protect the evacuees' homes from being looted.

Ministry of Energy and Mines' Office Head, Soukan Phongsavath, says officials are working to safeguard electricity sources in the flooded villages.

Hundreds of families in Done and Hadkanza villages, Hadxaifong district, Vientiane , have been cut off from the rest of the city because the access road is flooded.

They started moving their livestock and possessions out of the area on August 11.

The gates of the Nam Ngum dam were opened to three metres yesterday to allow water to escape downstream. The dam is expecting a large influx of water to come from upstream in the next two to three days. Widening the dam gates now is intended to prevent the dam from overflowing later this week, according to the dam's Deputy Director Vanthong Khamlounvilayvong.

This must occur before the river levels rise as forecast by the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology.

“We can't manage and release water if the level of the Mekong is too high,” Mr Vanthong said.

The Lao government has mobilised all of its sectors to help protect against flood damage.

The Ministry of Information and Culture yesterday held a meeting to urge its bodies to allocate staff to help with the effort.

Some staff have been tasked with these duties, while others have been placed on standby.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update August 13, 2008) "

We will try to keep you informed when we hear more news.