By Robin Gomes
South Korean Cardinal Andrew Soo-jung Yeom has expressed “deep sadness at the loss of life and injury” caused by flooding following the collapse on Monday of a hydroelectric power dam in the southernmost Attapeu province of Laos.
“I pray for the repose of the deceased and God’s consolation for all those Laotian people who grieve the loss of their beloved family and friends,” Cardinal Yeom, the Archbishop of Seoul, wrote on Friday in a condolence message to the Apostolic Vicariate of Pakse in Laos.
The official Laos News Agency said on Thursday that 27 people were confirmed dead and 131 were missing in the largely agricultural province bordering Vietnam to the east and Cambodia to the south.
Troops searched for survivors in the remote region, three days after the dam collapse sent a torrent of water charging across paddy fields and through villages, as rescuers rushed aid to thousands of homeless.
Cardinal Yeom hoped that the “missing persons can safely get back to their families as soon as possible and the victims can receive necessary supports and aids as fast as possible.” He entreated “God’s mercy to save all Laotian people from the grief and pain of the tragic disaster.”
Rescue and relief teams from around Asia have headed into Attapeu.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCH) said roads and bridges were damaged, and boat and helicopter were the only means of transport in the worst-affected areas.
Besides the cardinal’s message, the One Body One Spirit Movement of Seoul Archdiocese has sent $50,000 to Archbishop Paul In-Nam Tschang, Apostolic Delegate to Laos as emergency relief funds for the affected people.
Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin sent a condolence message earlier on Tuesday on behalf of Pope Francis, expressing his “heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this disaster.”
The dam that collapsed was part of the $1.2 billion Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy power project, which involves Laotian, Thai and South Korean firms.
The project's main partner, South Korea's SK Engineering & Construction, said part of a small supply dam was washed away and the company was cooperating with the Laos government to help rescue villagers.
The firm blamed the collapse on heavy rain during the current monsoon season in the region that brings tropical storms and heavy downpours.