Flooding Disaster in Laos

Disaster Response | Print

A hydroelectric dam in southern Laos collapsed Monday leaving several dead and hundreds missing. The disaster also destroyed more than 6,000 homes. BGR has two volunteer teams on the ground, assessing needs. Below, one BGR partner gives his firsthand account of the search for bodies:

“Hard day today. This morning I loaded up the truck with about fifty cases of water (Thanks, BGR) to bring to the area affected by the flood. I took one of our volunteers for the summer with me. Although it was only about fifty miles away, it took about three hours to reach due to the road conditions.

We dropped off the water, and before we left, I mentioned to one of the military officials that I had a drone with me and asked if they thought it would be helpful in locating those still stranded. I was passed around to a few people until one of them hopped in a truck and escorted us about thirty more minutes away to the beginning of the flooded area. This was ground zero.

As soon as we got out of the truck, we saw men and women walking toward us who were just then getting out of the water after days of waiting. I spoke with another official who directed us to walk in knee-deep water for about half a mile to some boats. I found another military official and asked him what he thought would be most helpful. I was prepared to take the drone and begin looking for people that rescuers hadn’t reached or didn’t yet know about. We hopped in a small inflatable boat and began driving further in.

That is when he told us exactly what our mission was. He took us to the edge of some trees and pointed toward the pile of debris. He said an old man was missing, but no one could get in to locate the body and we needed the drone to see if we could find him. I asked what was supposed to happen if we see the body, and he pointed to a large black bag sitting on the bottom of the boat. For the next four hours, we drifted around piles of debris looking for bodies of missing persons who didn’t make it out. We weren’t able to locate any bodies; however, we did see one of the other boats who went out with us carrying a girl they had found.

I felt a weird series of emotions, not knowing how to measure success. On the one hand, we wanted to help and locating bodies is what they needed help with. I hoped to find something so families might be reunited with the bodies of their loved ones, but at the same time, I prayed I wouldn’t see anything. In the end, we were happy to check areas off the grid that had been searched, but we still felt like we played a very small role in the grand scheme of things. This was a devastating event that has affected the lives of thousands. Please pray for the efforts of those on the ground who stay and won’t be back in their beds with their families for many more weeks.”

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