Lao media reports that 19 people are dead and 49 believed missing in southern Laos after an unfinished hydroelectric dam collapsed, releasing a wall of water that inundated downstream villages.

Rescuers searched amid submerged homes, many with people perched on rooftops in an effort to escape the floodwaters after Monday’s collapse of a dam that is part of the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower project in southeastern Attapeu province near neighboring Cambodia.

Helicopters and boats have been deployed for survivors, district governor Bounhome Phommasane told the state-run Vientiane Times.

The newspaper, citing unofficial reports from the provincial government, said about 19 people had been found dead and 49 were believed to still be missing.

With moderate to heavy rain in the forecast, the governor says the flood level is expected to rise, adding to the several villages affected by the initial dam break. Provincial officials were quoted in the Times as saying seven villages had been affected.

The official Lao News Agency (KPL) acknowledged, “the disaster has claimed several human lives, left hundreds missing and more than 1,300 families (6.600 people) homeless.”

“We will continue with rescue efforts today but it’s very difficult, the conditions are very difficult,” the official said.

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