First came a boom, shortly followed by the sound of something bursting. Then, a giant wave — big enough to submerge an area the size of Paris in 15 feet of water — washed across southeastern Laos, ripping villages apart, swallowing homes, and dispersing thousands of people.
Is Laos facing a dam disaster?
The failure of a billion-dollar dam in the Lao province of Attapeu in July this year left at least 35 dead and over 7,000 homeless, according to sate-run media.
In the wake of the tragedy, the Laotian government promised to review the safety of existing dams and suspend the approval of new ones. An international team of experts was called on to investigate the root cause of the incident.
But months later, both the review and investigation are ongoing, and work on approximately 50 dams steadily continues.
With hundreds more dams planned for the country, environmentalists are sounding the alarm that the Mekong River system in Laos could be devastated, along with the lives of those relying on it.