Update: October 2, 2009
Agence France-Presse | 10/02/2009 9:55 PM
HANOI – Tropical Storm Ketsana has killed 16 people and left 135 missing in Laos, the country’s Red Cross said on Friday, as details of the tragedy began to emerge from one of Asia’s poorest nations.
Fourteen of the deaths occurred in southern Attapeu province on the border with Cambodia, said Bountheung Menvilay, head of the agency’s disaster preparedness division.
Two other deaths came in Savannakhet province, but Attapeu and adjacent Sekong provinces were most affected by the storm, which passed through Laos on Wednesday after being downgraded from a typhoon, the Red Cross official said.
“We do have casualties in that location,” said government spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing, who was unable to confirm the number of deaths.
Bountheung said severe flooding had displaced 37,500 people, many of whom have sought shelter in schools and pagodas.
Ketsana brought devastation across Southeast Asia, having first killed at least 293 people in the Philippines last weekend. Vietnam reported 99 deaths while at least 17 people were killed in Cambodia.
The Red Cross in Laos reported 105 injured in the storm, which affected a total of six provinces.
Khenthong said electricity and roads in the worst-hit area were cut, leaving helicopters the only way in.
“Even under normal circumstances it’s hard to go there,” he said.
The floods left many people stranded on the roofs of their homes, he added.
“Many houses were swept away or had roofs blown off,” Sekong Deputy Governor Lieng Khamphoune was quoted as saying in the Vientiane Times.
In Sekong alone about 25,000 people have lost either their homes, gardens or livestock, said Henry Braun, Laos director for the aid agency CARE, which is leading the relief effort in that province.
“Most of them have lost everything,” he said.
CARE staff reached two villages which each had only one in 25 houses still standing, Braun said.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said rice and canned fish from its stockpile were distributed by the government on Friday in Sekong, where access is only possible by boat and helicopter.
“There’s two helicopters in Sekong province at the moment,” said Cornelia Paetz, a spokeswoman for the WFP.
Currents in the flooded Sekong River were still very strong, hampering both rescue and aid delivery, United Nations sources said.
Attapeu remained inaccessible, Paetz said.
“We have not been able to go to various districts to assess properly,” said Sally Sakulku of the United Kingdom-based Health Unlimited, which operates in Attapeu.
World Vision said it had begun distributing water, food and plastic roofing materials in one district of Savannakhet but had not yet been able to reach another area.
“We could not go by road so we are trying by boat,” said Stephen Rozario, the group’s national director.
“It’s clear that there are large areas that have not been reached at all,” one source said of the general situation in the stricken south.
In Attapeu, flood waters started to recede on Friday and there was intermittent electricity, Sakulku said.
Bountheung said a meeting was being held Friday to plan a relief mission for Monday following the receipt of 50,000 dollars from the US embassy. The embassy confirmed it had made the donation to the Red Cross.
as of 10/02/2009 9:55 PM
This is sad news from Laos. I thought Ketsana was down grade to tropical depression which mostly produce lots of rain. I found this news from lao newspaper website and let’s hope for no more bad news.
At least 16 people have been confirmed dead after flash flooding caused by tropical storm Ketsana hit southern provinces of Laos on Tuesday night, according to unofficial reports.
The Xekong River overflows its banks. –Photo Khankeo
The storm hit four provinces, leaving two people dead in Savannakhet and killing 14 in Attapeu. Xekong and Saravan were also severely affected, according to Director General of the Social Welfare Department under the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Pasith Detphommathed.
The flash flooding has passed and the storm has weakened, but many communities in the provinces are cut off from roads and any form of communication.
Road links between Xekong and Attapeu provinces have been interrupted, according to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.
Officials are as yet unable to ascertain the exact number of fatalities and the extent of the damage, as information is still being collected and numerous villages are yet to be reached.
In Xekong province, about 30 villages of 900 families were inundated by flood waters caused by the rising level of the Xekong River and water pouring down from surrounding hillsides.
The four districts of Kaleum, Lamam, Thataeng and Dakcheung were affected, of which Kaleum and Lanam were the hardest hit, according to Xekong provincial Deputy Governor, Mr Lieng Khamphoune.
“Many houses were swept away or had roofs blown off. Several villages are still cut off from any communication,” he said.
Officials were unable to reach many villages for some time after the storm due to continuing heavy running water, Mr Lieng added.
Residents of communities that were reached by officials were relocated, but had to leave all their belongings behind.
The rescued victims have been taken to schools on higher ground or to stay with relatives.
Mr Lieng said provincial officials were deployed yesterday to all affected areas to collect information on fatalities, loss of property and assistance requirements and the data is expected to be ready soon.
Provincial authorities have already mobilised initial assistance contributed by organisations and members of the public, which includes food and clothing.
The government taskforce in charge of disaster relief, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence Lieutenant General Douangchay Phichith, and local officials are working in the affected provinces to assist people and distribute food, clothing and other essential items.
This includes two trucks loaded with clothes, food and tents, according to Mr Pasith.
With many villages remaining isolated and in remote areas, officials are using helicopters to deliver aid relief. The government has ordered the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to buy 100 tonnes of rice to distribute to people affected by the storm.
The government is working closely with international and civil organisations as well as individuals to mobilise aid relief.
The Lao Red Cross is drafting a plan to mobilise donations and support from donors and counterparts in friendly countries for distribution, according to Lao Red Cross President Dr Snivourast Sramany.
The European Commission will fast-track an additional two million euros of humanitarian aid to help the victims of Ketsana, according to a press statement from the commission.
This amount, which comes on top of two million euros of aid announced yesterday for the Philippines , is for Vietnam , Cambodia and Laos .
The government and supporting bodies are working hard to amass funding but they are far short of the resources they need.
People who want to donate to the relief fund can contact the Lao Red Cross on 021-250000 or 020-6771253.
By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update October 2 , 2009)