South Korea Firm Says Laos Dam Damage Found Day Before Collapse

Seoul: The South Korean partner in a Laos hydropower dam said Wednesday it discovered the upper part of the structure had washed away 24 hours before it collapsed, engulfing villages and leaving hundreds missing.

The wall of water unleashed Monday by the failure of the dam in the country's southeast surged downstream, sweeping away homes and leaving an unknown number of people feared dead.

SK Engineering & Construction, a South Korean builder that is one of the partners in the project, said it discovered the damage to an auxiliary dam at around 9:00 pm Sunday local time.

"We immediately alerted the authorities and began evacuating (nearby) villagers downstream," it said in a statement.

Repair work was hampered by heavy rain which had damaged roads, it said, and early on Monday water was discharged from the Xe-Namnoy dam -- one of the two main dams in the project -- to try to relieve pressure on the auxiliary structure.

The government was warned about further damage to the dam at around noon, prompting an official evacuation order for villagers downstream, and the structure collapsed a few hours later, it said.

By Tuesday morning, seven out of 12 villages located downstream were flooded, it said. Aerial pictures showed a vast brown inundation swamping houses and jungle alike over a huge area.

Another video showed families waiting for rescue on the rooftop of their house, with a nearby Buddhist temple partially submerged.

The South Korean firm said it had sent a crisis team to the site, dispatching helicopters, boats and rescue workers.

"Currently, SK E&C is actively working on personnel recovery and damage relief with the Laotian government," it said.

Communist Laos is traversed by a vast network of rivers and several dams are being built or planned in the impoverished and landlocked country, which exports most of its hydropower energy to neighbouring countries such as Thailand.

The $1.2 billion dam located near the border with Cambodia is part of a project by Vientiane-based Xe Pian Xe Namnoy Power Company, or PNPC, a joint venture formed in 2012 between a Laotian, a Thai and two South Korean companies, according to the project's website.

The 410 megawatt capacity plant was supposed to start commercial operations by 2019, according to the venture's website.

The project consists of a series of dams over the Houay Makchanh, the Xe-Namnoy and the Xe-Pian rivers in Champasak province.

It planned to export 90 percent of its electricity to energy-hungry Thailand and the remainder was to be offered up on the local grid.

Under the terms of construction, PNPC said it would operate and manage the power project for 27 years after commercial operations began.

  • Published in World

'Duck boat' capsizes in Missouri, kills at least 11: police

(Reuters) - At least 11 people drowned on Thursday when an amphibious “duck boat” capsized and sank in stormy weather on a lake in Missouri with 31 people, including children, on board, as divers searched for other possible victims, police said.

Seven people were taken to hospital following the incident on the “Ride the Ducks” amphibious vehicle on Table Rock Lake, near Branson, Missouri, Stone County Sheriff Doug Rader told reporters.

At least 11 people were killed in the incident as divers finished their search effort for the night and will start again in the morning, the sheriff said later in a news conference.

https://s3.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?m=02&d=20180720&t=2&i=1285101371&r=LYNXMPEE6J097&w=1200Rescue personnel are seen after an amphibious "duck boat" capsized and sank, at Table Rock Lake near Branson, Stone County, Missouri, U.S. July 19, 2018 in this still image obtained from a video on social media. SOUTHERN STONE COUNTY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT/Facebook/via REUTERS

Emergency crews responded to the incident shortly after 7 p.m. (0000 GMT) after thunderstorms rolled through the area, the fire district said on Twitter.

Video footage shot by an eyewitness who was on shore showed strong waves tossing two duck boats side to side. The video clip was posted online by KY3.

“Our number one priority is the families and our employees that were affected by this tragic accident; as of this time right now we are assisting the authorities as they continue with their search and rescue operation,” said Suzanne Smagala-Potts a spokeswoman for Ripley Entertainment, which owns the Ride The Ducks operation in Branson.

She could not confirm how many crew members were aboard the boat.

Duck amphibious vehicles are used on sightseeing tours around the world and have been involved in a number of fatal accidents in the past two decades.

The company that builds ducks, Ride the Ducks International LLC, agreed in 2016 to pay a $1 million fine after one of the vehicles collided with a bus in Seattle, killing five international students.

The company admitted to failing to comply with U.S. vehicle manufacturing rules.

  • Published in World

On Thai Cave Rescue, An Inevitable Hollywood Movie Is Coming Soon

The jokes, groans and eye-rolls started on Twitter even before the announcement - replete with tongue-in-cheek casting predictions.

"How soon is too soon to start boycotting the Hollywood movie of the Thai cave rescue starring Mark Wahlberg?"

- Linda Ge

"The movie of the Thai boys trapped in the cave will star Matt Damon as all of the boys"

- Ketan Joshi

"Cave rescue is going to make an incredible movie, can't wait to see Scarlett Johansson inspire in her role as 12 Thai boys."

- djb

Then, on Wednesday, it was actually announced. The story that captivated the world about a boys soccer team and their coach being trapped in a cave in Thailand is going to be a major motion picture. Pure Flix Entertainment, the Christian film studio known for the "God's Not Dead" series, will produce it.

@KetanJ0 The movie of the Thai boys trapped in the cave will star Matt Damon as all of the boys
 
The jokes, groans and eye-rolls started on Twitter even before the announcement - replete with tongue-in-cheek casting predictions.

"How soon is too soon to start boycotting the Hollywood movie of the Thai cave rescue starring Mark Wahlberg?"

- Linda Ge

"The movie of the Thai boys trapped in the cave will star Matt Damon as all of the boys"

- Ketan Joshi

"Cave rescue is going to make an incredible movie, can't wait to see Scarlett Johansson inspire in her role as 12 Thai boys."

- djb

Then, on Wednesday, it was actually announced. The story that captivated the world about a boys soccer team and their coach being trapped in a cave in Thailand is going to be a major motion picture. Pure Flix Entertainment, the Christian film studio known for the "God's Not Dead" series, will produce it.

The announcement came the same day the last boy was rescued. The inevitable pushback was immediate, with writer and director Larry Charles tweeting:

"The Thai cave rescue reminds me of a post modern version of Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole. You've got Elon Musk grabbing attention with shameless self-promoting, trying to shill a new product AND a movie of the saga being announced before the kids are out of the hospital."

Drudge Report tweeted, "Hollywood producers already on scene plotting Thai cave movie" - the emphasis naturally falling on "already."

The speed with which an ongoing tragedy has been mined for intellectual property, as if it were an old Marvel comic book, might seem distasteful. But it isn't a particularly new phenomenon.

- - -

"Zero Dark Thirty" and "The Hurt Locker"

One of the most striking recent examples is "Zero Dark Thirty," Kathryn Bigelow's dramatization of United States government's hunt for and eventual killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. U.S. forces killed bin Laden on May 2, 2011, in what President Barack Obama called "the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al-Qaida." The movie hit theaters in December 2012, barely a year and a half later.

That's a remarkable turnaround time. Bigelow, though, was no stranger to tackling fresh issues. She won six Oscars, including best director and best picture, for her 2008 movie "The Hurt Locker," which followed a U.S. bomb disposal team during the Iraq War. Though the movie was based on accounts of a journalist embedded in Iraq in 2004, it came out while the Iraq War was still underway.

"Patriots Day" and "Stronger"

The 2013 Boston marathon bombing, which killed three and injured hundreds more, was turned into two major, star-driven films.

First came "Patriots Day" in 2016. The Peter Berg movie depicts Mark Wahlberg as Boston Police Sgt. Tommy Saunders as he searches for the bombers in the attack's immediate aftermath.

Though movies based on recent tragedies are often subject to backlash, the reaction to "Patriots Day" was particularly fierce - especially in the Boston area. The movie, wrote Boston film critic Sean Burns, was "as disgraceful an exploitation of real-life tragedy as I've ever seen. Everyone involved in this movie should be ashamed of themselves."

The Boston Globe's Ty Burr was slightly more forgiving, calling it "slickly heartfelt" and "vaguely insulting."

A year later, "Stronger" hit theaters. Rather than focus on the police response, the David Gordon Green told the story of Jeff Bauman (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), a man who lost his legs in the bombing and was the subject of a famous photo from the day.

This one was much more warmly received, perhaps because it was based on Bauman's memoir. It "rises on the power of its well-chosen ensemble to offer an emotionally resonant fact-based story that transcends inspirational drama cliches," reads the critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, where it earned a 92 percent "fresh" rating.

"United 93″ and "World Trade Center"

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States was, by far, the country's deadliest. Perhaps due to this wretched gravity, Hollywood waited a bit longer to cash in on the horror. But cash in it did, with a pair of back-to-back movies. "United 93″ and "World Trade Center" were both released in 2006, within four months of each other.

The first came in April, and as the title suggests, told the story of United 93 - the hijacked plane heading toward Washington, D.C., that crashed in Pennsylvania after its passengers attacked the hijackers. Paul Greengrass' account was met warmly by critics, but those connected to the actual event weren't as pleased.

"It was both excruciating and beautiful at the same time," Alice Hoagland, whose son was on the flight, told the San Francisco Chronicle. After Marjorie Kase, who lost three friends in the 9/11 attacks, unexpectedly saw a trailer, she echoed others in telling the paper, "I don't think the country is ready for this movie right now. We don't have enough perspective or hindsight on the matter."

Just as "United 93″ was coming out on DVD months later, Oliver Stone's account of first responders was hitting theaters amid far more mixed reviews - many of which deemed it exploitative.

The World Trade Center attacks are still being mined for the big screen. "9/11," starring Charlie Sheen and Whoopi Goldberg, came out just last year.

With each release, it seems, those directly affected by attacks are forced to relieve the horrid day. Bill Doyle, whose son was killed in the Twin Towers, was particularly angry after seeing advertisements for 2012's "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," the Tom Hanks vehicle based on a Jonathan Safran Foer novel.

"Everybody's trying to make money off 9/11," he told the New York Post. "A lot of families got upset. Why couldn't they warn us about this? I don't think people really realized that these people are really still stressed."

"American Sniper"

A year after Chris Kyle -- the deadliest marksman in United States history who had 255 confirmed kills during four tours in Iraq -- died in 2013, the Oscar-winning, Clint Eastwood-helmed depiction of his life (and death) titled "American Sniper" hit theaters.

Made-for-TV movies

The timeline also tends to be even shorter when it comes to the made-for-TV movies. Consider this: In May 1993, Tim Daly portrayed David Koresh in a small screen flick about the standoff between the police and the Branch Davidians - which occurred less than a month earlier.

  • Published in World

Boys lost weight but in good health as Thai cave rescue restores faith

CHIANG RAI, Thailand (Reuters) - The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from inside a flooded Thai cave lost an average of 2 kg (4 pounds) during their 17-day ordeal but were generally in good condition and showed no signs of stress, a senior health official said on Wednesday.

Thais reacted with relief, gratitude and exhilaration after the last group of the “Wild Boars” soccer team was rescued from the Tham Luang cave, near the border with Myanmar, on Tuesday night, ending an ordeal that gripped Thailand and the world.

They were taken by helicopter to a hospital about 70 km (45 miles) away to join their team mates in quarantine for the time being.

“From our assessment, they are in good condition and not stressed. The children were well taken care of in the cave. Most of the boys lost an average of 2 kg,” Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, an inspector for Thailand’s health department, told reporters.

Parents of the first four boys freed on Sunday have been able to visit them but had to wear protective suits and stand 2 meters (7 feet) away as a precaution.

Thongchai said one from the last group rescued on Tuesday had a lung infection and they were all were given vaccinations for rabies and tetanus.

The group ventured into the vast cave complex in northern Thailand after soccer practice on June 23 and their rescue dominated front page headlines in Thailand.

“All Wild Boars Saved,” read one headline.

“Hooyah! Mission accomplished,” read another, echoing the rallying cry of the Thai navy SEALs involved in the rescue.

The hashtag #Hooyah was also hugely popular with Thai netizens wanting to show their support for the hundreds of rescuers, including divers from around the world, who helped to get the boys out.

Rescue mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn thanked people in Thailand and from around the world soon after the final rescues were completed. A senior Australian police officer acknowledged the degree of international cooperation “in a very unfriendly environment”.

“It is amazing what the human being can do. There are extraordinary people doing extraordinary things,” Glenn McEwan, the Australian Federal Police’s Asia manager, told reporters in Chiang Rai.

(For a graphic on the Thai cave rescue click tmsnrt.rs/2KR2zRj)

‘AMAZING NEWS’

Audiences around the world cheered the team’s successful rescue after the saga generated messages of help, prayers and - finally - expressions of relief.

The drama in Thailand has even resonated as far as Russia, where soccer’s World Cup is reaching its final stages. Players from France and England welcomed news of the rescue and sent their best wishes to the “Wild Boars” on Twitter.

“This victory goes to the heroes of the day, well done boys, you are so strong,” French midfielder Paul Pogba tweeted after his team beat Belgium 1-0 overnight to reach the final.

Manchester City and England defender Kyle Walker, whose team faces Croatia in the second semi-final later on Wednesday, said he wanted to send shirts to the boys.

“Amazing news that all of the Thai kids are out of the cave safely!” Walker tweeted.

A Google search on Tuesday for the words “Thai cave rescue” revealed 359 million results, with interest peaking since last week when British divers found the boys and the rescue mission began.

Araya Hargate, one of Thailand’s top actresses and a L’Oreal cosmetics brand ambassador, shared a cartoon of the boys surrounded by rescuers on her Instagram page, which has 7.9 million followers.

“After all ... the world is not such a bad place #humanityfaithrestored #thailandcaverescue,” the actress, known in Thailand as “Chompoo”, wrote.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised the courage of the multinational rescue team, which was run by the Thai military, as “one of the most heroic and inspiring episodes of our time”.

“It’s hard to imagine anything more frightening than being trapped underground in the dark, let alone having your children trapped underground in the dark,” Turnbull told the Queensland Press Club.

 

  • Published in World

Rescuers Begin 'Challenging' Final Push To Free Last Five From Thai Cave

BANGKOK/CHIANG RAI: The third phase of an operation to rescue four remaining boys and their soccer coach trapped inside a flooded Thai cave began on Tuesday morning, the head of the rescue mission said.

Narongsak Osottanakorn told a news conference the latest rescue operation began at about 10:08 a.m. local time (0308 GMT).

"All five will be brought out at the same time today," he said, to cheers from reporters and rescue workers.

Rescue organisers said they needed 20 hours to replan and replenish oxygen supplies, with the next rescue mission expected to come some time on Tuesday afternoon. 

Highlights

  1. Four more boys rescued from Thailand's Tham Luang cave
  2. Now 8 people have been rescued, while 5 remain in the cave
  3. The remaining five will be brought out at the same time today

The plight of the boys and their coach has drawn international attention, with divers, engineers and medics among others flying in from around the world to assist.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha visited the cave to inspect the operation and was quoted by Narongsak as saying he didn't want to see this kind of incident happen again on Thai soil.

The "Wild Boars" team became trapped on June 23 when they set out to explore the cave after soccer practice and rains flooded the tunnels.

  • Published in World

Deaths In Japan Rains Rise To 100

Tokyo: Desperate relatives braced for bad news Monday as rescuers dug through landslides in the wake of severe floods that have killed 100 people and left swathes of central and western Japan under water.

As floods receded, emergency workers were able to reach previously cut-off places where authorities fear they could find more bodies in the wreckage of homes devastated by rivers of mud and debris.

"I have asked my family to prepare for the worst," said Kosuke Kiyohara, 38, as he waited for word of his sister and her two young sons.

"I can't reach her phone," he told AFP, sitting across from a house that had been ripped apart and tossed on its side by a huge landslide.

At the end of last week rivers engorged by more than a metre (three feet) of rain burst their banks, engulfing entire villages and forcing people to rooftops to await evacuation by helicopter.

japan rainAuthorities warned the downpours had loosened earth on hillsides and mountain slopes creating new risks.
 

Hillsides gave way under the weight of water, with deadly landslides crushing wooden houses and erasing roads.

On Monday morning, with the sun finally out and temperatures rising, rescue workers dug through mud in a desperate search for survivors, or victims.

The government said at least 100 people had been killed, and with many people still missing, the tally was expected to rise further.

Search for survivors

"A total of 73,000 police, fire department, Self-Defence Forces and Japan Coast Guard personnel, with 700 helicopters, are doing their best as part of the rescue effort," government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said.

In Kumano, soldiers and other emergency workers were using diggers to clear crushed cars and mangled homes.

But they were moving carefully, looking as they went for survivors, or the remains of those killed in the disaster.

In one part of Kumano, the nose of a white car was just visible underneath the top floor of a home that had been torn from the rest of the building and swept down a hillside.

Much of the road that once led into the upscale district of a town known for brushmaking was no longer visible, and water was still flowing from the surrounding hillsides around the feet of shellshocked residents.

In neighbouring Okayama prefecture, rescue workers flew in helicopters over areas that are still submerged and otherwise unreachable, looking for signs of life.

"As far as we could see from the helicopter, no-one is now waving for help," a rescue worker from Kurashiki city told AFP.

Local government officials said pumping trucks were being deployed to help restore access to some of the worst-hit areas.

"Rescuers had to go by boat yesterday due to flooding but the water is gradually receding today," a spokeswoman at the area's disaster control office said.

"If the water level drops low enough, they may be able to access hard-hit areas by road or on foot."

Landslide risk

Even as the rains let up, authorities warned the downpours had loosened earth on hillsides and mountain slopes creating new risks.

"We urge residents to remain cautious about possible landslides," a weather agency official told AFP.

And with many people stuck in modestly equipped shelters with few possessions, or living in damaged homes with no running water or electricity, the rising temperatures posed a new problem, authorities said.

At one point around five million people were told to evacuate, but the orders are not mandatory and many people remained at home, becoming trapped by rapidly rising water or sudden landslides.

In the town of Mihara, roads were transformed into muddy rivers, with dirt piled up on either side as flood water gushed around the wheels of stranded cars.

"The area became an ocean," 82-year-old resident Nobue Kakumoto told AFP Sunday, surveying the scene.

In the town of Saka, Eiichi Tsuiki opted to stay in his home, and survived only by moving to the top floor as flood waters rose, washing away cars outside.

"I've lived here for 40 years... I've never seen this before," the 69-year-old oyster farmer told AFP.

  • Published in World

"Today Is The D-Day": Rescue Ops For Boys Trapped In Thai Cave Begin

Mae Sai, Thailand: Elite divers on Sunday began the extremely dangerous operation to extract 12 boys and their football coach who have been trapped in a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand for more than two weeks, as looming monsoon rains threatened the rescue effort.

The "Wild Boars" team has been stuck in a cramped chamber several kilometres (miles) inside the Tham Luang cave complex since June 23, when they went in after football practice and were hemmed in by rising waters. 

Their plight has transfixed Thailand and the rest of the world, as authorities have struggled to devise a plan to get the boys and their coach out through twisting, narrow and jagged passageways that in some places are completely flooded.

"Today is the D-day. The boys are ready to face any challenges," rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters near the cave site as weather forecasters warned of more monsoon rains late on Sunday that would cause more flooding in the cave.

Narongsak said the first boy was expected to be brought out of the cave by around 9:00 pm (1400 GMT), meaning the trip would take around 11 hours.

The boys, aged from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach were found dishevelled and hungry by British cave diving specialists nine days after they ventured in.

But initial euphoria over finding the boys alive quickly turned into deep anxiety as rescuers raced to find a way to get them out, with Narongsak at one point dubbing the effort "Mission Impossible".

The death of a former Thai Navy Seal diver who ran out of oxygen in the cave on Friday underscored the danger of the journey even for adept professionals.

Saman Kunan had been trying to establish an air line in a flooded area with oxygen tanks when he passed out and perished.

After a short deluge of rain on Saturday night and with more bad weather forecast, Narongsak on Sunday said authorities had to act immediately.

"There is no other day that we are more ready than today," he said. "Otherwise we will lose the opportunity."

Between the operating base manned by Thai Navy Seals inside the cave and the trapped boys are twisting, turning cave passageways with torrents of water gushing through.

The water in the cave is muddy and unclear, with one diver comparing it to a cafe latte. Ropes have been installed to help guide the boys through the darkness. 

Narongsak said Sunday two divers would accompany each of the boys out of the cave.

Rescue efforts 

Rescuers had fed a kilometres-long air pipe into the cave to restore oxygen levels in the chamber where the team was sheltering with medics and divers.

More than 100 exploratory holes had also been bored -- some shallow, but the longest 400 metres deep -- into the mountainside in an attempt to open a second evacuation route and avoid forcing the boys into the dangerous dive.

On Saturday, Thai Navy SEALS published touching notes scrawled by the trapped footballers to their families, who had been waiting for them agonisingly close by outside the cave entrance.

The boys urged relatives "not to worry" and asked for their favourite food once they were safely evacuated, in notes handed to divers.

In one, Pheerapat, nicknamed "Night", whose 16th birthday the group were celebrating in the cave when they became stuck on June 23, said: "I love you, Dad, Mum and my sister. You don't need to be worried about me."

The coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, who many Thais have criticised for leading the boys into the cave, also apologised. 

"To all the parents, all the kids are still fine. I promise to take the very best care of the kids," he said in a note given to divers on Friday.

  • Published in World

"Race Against Water" As Rain Threatens Thai Boys In The Cave

Mae Sai, Thailand: Thai rescuers on Thursday said they may be prodded into a complex extraction of 12 boys and their football coach from a flooded cave if forecast rains hammer the mountainside and jeopardise the rescue mission.

Thirteen sets of diving equipment have been prepared for the team, who have endured 12 nights underground in the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand.

Water is being pumped out from the deluged cave round-the-clock, reducing the flooding by one centimetre an hour.

But with rain forecast to begin on Friday, the Chaing Rai provincial governor helming the unprecedented rescue effort conceded the mission was now "a race against the water".

"Our biggest concern is the weather. We are calculating how much time we have if it rains, how many hours and days," Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters, without providing further details.

In a sign of increased urgency, Narongsak said medics and Thai navy SEAL divers are assessing whether the boys are fit and well enough to be taken out early -- apparently softening his instance on Wednesday that "no risk" will be taken with the evacuation.

The prospect of the stranded team diving out is fraught with risk.

It takes seasoned cave diving experts around six hours to reach the muddy ledge where the boys are sheltering.

Many of the youngsters -- who are aged between 11-16 -- are unable to swim and none have diving experience.

Thai navy SEAL experts are teaching them the basics of diving.

But the areas where diving is still necessary are tight and may require the boys to swim through murky waters unaccompanied.

In a two-pronged strategy, cavers are also hunting for a chimney down to the boys, creating a potential second option for evacuation in the event heavy rains force their hand.

Authorities still hope they can manage any fresh deluge, with high-powered pumps draining 128 million litres (34 million gallons) of water so far from the cave in a round-the-clock effort.

"We are draining as much as we can," said Khao Khieupakdi a a Bangkok disaster prevention official, seconded to northern Thailand like scores of other specialists.

Water has been cleared from the entrance to a rescue base camp in "chamber three" inside the cave, but onward sections towards the boys remain impassable without diving, he said.

"I am concerned as the forecast said is for more rain."

Days in the dark

Concerns for the mental and physical health of the boys are mounting after a prolonged ordeal in the dark, claustrophobic cave complex.

Experts say the risk of psychological damage is high for youngsters trapped in traumatic conditions, while the lack of light may cause confusion.

British cave divers found the emaciated and dishevelled group on Monday, huddled on a muddy shelf with flood waters lapping ominously below, after nine days missing.  

Several Thai navy divers and medics are staying with them and fresh video footage released on Wednesday showed the group in seemingly good spirits.

"They cannot do anything... they have to save energy," army Major General Bancha Duriyaphan.

"They are chit-chatting in general. Talking, eating and sleeping," he said.

  • Published in World
Subscribe to this RSS feed