Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Vientiane flooding update

In case the server for the Vientiane Times is busy, here is the latest from their website: http://www.vientianetimes.org.la.

"Residents warned to remain vigilant against flooding

Officials have warned Vientiane residents to remain vigilant as the rainy season continues, even though the level of the Mekong River has started to drop.
Vientiane’s Flood Prevention Supervising Committee Chairman, Standing Deputy Prime Minister Mr Somsavat Lengsavad, gave an interview at the Lao National Television Station on Sunday.
He highlighted the urgent work required after the flooding and spoke about the measures officials and residents used to prevent the capital from being flooded.

He said September was usually the month with the highest rainfall and urged people to continue to closely follow information released by the Department of Meteorology and Hydrology.
“I have told the department to coordinate with their counterparts in foreign countries closely to ensure we’re prepared if a storm occurs,” Mr Somsavat said.

“We have won the first battle in the fight against major flooding, but we should not be careless. We should keep close surveillance on the situation.”

He said taskforces must be formed as a precautionary measure to ensure residents were always prepared and technical teams needed to monitor sandbags dikes regularly.

Mr Somsavat warned residents not to remove sandbags for personal use because that may cause problems in the future.

Establishing a city task force committee, chaired by Mr Somsavat, was one of the measures undertaken in the fight against flooding. District-level task forces were also established.

The city committee focused on three main strategies: preventing Vientiane from flooding, minimising the loss of lives and property and reducing any inconvenience to residents. The committee decided to increase the sandbag dike from Sikhottabong’s Kaoliew village to Hadxaifong’s Chinaimo area, covering a length of 15km.

To achieve this goal the committee assigned 600 officials for each kilometre of dike, and instructed them to work around the clock. One technical officer was made responsible for supervising every 500m of construction.

One hundred and twenty vehicles transported 40,000 cubic metres of sand and more than 12,000 cubic metres of soil to make 1.3 million sandbags, according to Vientiane Mayor Dr Sinlavong Khoutphaythoune
The dike can withstand the river if it rises as high as 14.5m.

“If the level doesn’t exceed 14.5m, we are safe. But if water levels are forecast to go higher than that, we will discuss what steps need to be taken,” Mr Somsavat said.

Vientiane has been flooded four times: in 1966 when the level of the Mekong was measured at 12.71m, in 1972 when it reached 12.51m, in 1979 at 12.08 m and in 2002 at 12.6m.

In response to these floods, the Lao government constructed an embankment capable of preventing flooding at river levels up to 13.5m.

This year records were broken when water levels reached 13.68m.
Although the main city was safe, 93 villages in suburban areas experienced flooding, and more than 5,000 families are facing shortages of drinking water.

Dr Sinlavong said officials met with 26 drinking water business operators on Saturday to explore ways to assist the affected people. The operators were willing to divide into groups and supply drinking water to affected communities at standard prices.

A shortage of polished rice, due to the flooding of the rice mill, and medicines to treat diseases are also causing problems.

Mr Somsavat urged companies from state and private sectors, foreign expatriates, international organisations and foreign embassies to provide urgent assistance, particularly medical supplies and drinking water.

Mr Somsavat, on behalf of the government and Vientiane’s leading officials, thanked all involved in the flood prevention efforts for their support and hard work.

Mr Somsavat revealed a long-term plan for the establishment of a 12km permanent dike along the Mekong River bank, to be funded by a loan from the Republic of Korea.

The government is also considering constructing a dike along roads at risk of floods in Hadxaifong district’s Nalong village and the Markhiew stream area.

He informed residents living along the Mekong River that authorities will inspect properties for illegally constructed drainage systems that flow into the river.

(Latest Update August 19, 2008)"

Although the water level has begun to decrease, because the threat of flooding remains a possibility until the end of the rainy season, we will try to keep you informed as and when we hear news of any further problems.
Many thanks to those of you who have been following these events and praying for Laos in this situation. Please continue to remember this country and its people.