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Steps taken to investigate dam failure 

Two committees have been set up to carry out an investigation into the reason for the collapse of a hydropower dam in Attapeu province, as well as the responsibilities of the officials in charge.
The fracture of saddle dam D, one of five auxiliary dams at the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project, resulted in massive flooding on July 23 which has killed 35 people with 99 still missing. Thousands more have been left homeless.
Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith on Wednesday issued two separate ‘Prime Ministerial Decisions’ to formally establish the committees.
The decisions were issued just one day after the cabinet agreed on the move at an extraordinary meeting.
The first committee, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Government Inspection Authorities (GIA), Dr Bounthong Chitmany, is mandated to investigate the cause of the collapse of the dam wall.
The 14-member committee comprises representatives of various ministries and organisations.
The  investors in and the developers of the dam - two South Korean companies, a Thai firm and a Lao company - said continuous rainfall had caused a large volume of water to flow into the reservoir, exerting extreme pressure that fractured the dam wall.
However, agreements suggest that the dam should have been built to withstand such a large volume of water, which can be expected during the annual rainy season.  
In his decision, PM Thongloun told the fact-finding committee to expedite the investigation thoroughly and in a transparent manner so that the findings were accepted domestically and internationally.
The committee was told to scrutinise the internationally-recognised Lao and foreign experts and observers who would assist with the investigation.
In this regard, the committee was asked to request international organisations and development partners to provide financial and technical assistance as well as support for foreign experts.
The investigation will look into details including the survey, design, construction, inspection and approval of construction standards used in the dam.
The second committee, supervised by Dr Bounthong, will carry out an inspection into the responsibilities of individuals involved in the construction of the Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project.
The inspection will look into every detail to determine whether there was any irregularity that violated the relevant laws and could have caused the collapse of the dam.
The two committees are required to make regular reports on the progress made in the investigation and inspection to the government, and seek guidance when necessary.
The deadly disaster caused by the collapse of the dam has prompted the government to take action to overhaul the safety standards applied to hydroelectric dams in Laos, including those that have been built and those under construction.
The cabinet announced earlier this week that it would examine the safety standards used in the construction of dams.
All dams, both those that are complete and those under construction will be inspected.
The government has also decided to suspend new investments in hydropower projects in order to review its hydropower development strategy and plans.  

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update
August 10,

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