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.

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25 Killed, Over 2000 Evacuated As Guatemalan Volcano Erupts, City Airport Shut

Farmers covered in ash fled for their lives as civil defense staffers tried to relocate them to shelters during the event.

Guatemala City: 

Highlights

  1. The strong eruption was the second major one this year
  2. The dead were from farming communities just south of the volcano
  3. The Spanish colonial-era city is Guatemala's top tourist attraction

At least 25 people were killed when Guatemala's Fuego volcano erupted Sunday, belching ash and rock and forcing the airport to close, the country's disaster agency said.

"The toll was 25 dead as of 9:00 pm (0300 GMT Monday)," the spokesman for the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (Conred) said in a WhatsApp group.

Search and rescue operations for the missing and dead have been suspended due to low light and dangerous conditions, and will resume early on Monday morning, the spokesman said.

The eruption sent ash billowing over the surrounding area, turning plants and trees gray and blanketing streets, cars and people. 

Farmers covered in ash fled for their lives as civil defense staffers tried to relocate them to shelters during the event.

Earlier, Conred chief Sergio Cabanas and President Jimmy Morales held a news conference, saying that the eruption left seven dead, 20 injured and affected more than 1.7 million people.

Morales announced a red alert for Escuintla, Chimaltenango and Sacatepequez, the areas most affected by the eruption, and an orange alert throughout the country.

The president said he and his government would determine whether to ask Congress to declare a state of emergency in the areas, while at the same time appealing to the population for calm.

guatemala volcano ash afpAshes from the volcano covered vehicles, resulted in airport shutdown

Hundreds of personnel from the police, Red Cross and military have been dispatched to support emergency operations, Morales said.

Cabanas said that the dead included a civil protection official and others trapped by muddy material that descended from the 3,763-meter (12,346-foot) volcano.

Twenty people suffered burn injuries, and more than 3,000 were evacuated due to the eruption, which affected rural communities around the volcano as well as Antigua Guatemala, a colonial-era town very popular with tourists in the Central American country, he said.

There are also "missing persons, but we do not know how many," Cabanas said, adding that lava had blocked entry to several communities.

Dense ash blasted out by the volcano shut down Guatemala City's international airport, civil aviation said.

People were working to clean ash off the runways to get the airport operating again.

It is the second major eruption this year from the peak, following another that subsided at the beginning of February after sending ash towering 1.7 kilometers into the sky.

Guatemala has two other active volcanoes, Santiaguito in the west and Pacaya just south of the capital.

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All victims of May 18 air disaster identified

Professionals at the Forensic Medicine Institute (IML) have been working tirelessly since a Boeing 737-200 crashed near Havana’s José Martí International Airport last May 18.

Intense work, skill, and strong ethics have characterized efforts to identify all the victims of the disaster, a process that was completed in just eight days, as the Cuban people’s grief turned toward eternal gratitude.

The announcement was made during a May 27 press conference held by Sergio Rabell Piera, the institute’s director, who noted that all bodies have now been delivered to their families and for burial, and in so doing provide some closure.

Forensic experts from the IML, Ministry of Public Health, Criminalistics office as well as contingents from the Ministry of the Interior, were faced with a difficult task “due to the severe traumas caused by the plane crash, in addition to the effects of heat and fire.”

The identification process featured experts in the field of anthropology, dentistry, fingerprint analysis, bio-forensics, and included DNA analyses, added Rabell.

According to the IML director, the participation of family members was also vital to such efforts, as they provided fundamental information about the victims, as well as photos and documents which, in addition to the identification of jewelry and clothing, among other elements, allowed for bodies to be positively identified, he noted.

Rabell also praised speedy analysis of video footage of passengers boarding the plane, images recovered from victims’ cell phones, and descriptions by people who were in contact with them before the flight, as well as the support of all institutions, organization,s and bodies that participated in the identification process, in addition to those from the provinces where the victims lived and diplomatic delegations from the countries involved.

The expert also gave a special mention to the island’s 11 million inhabitants, who have continued to offer their solidarity. “Anyone with anything to do with forensic science has called,” and “there are those that have come just once and been of great help,” he explained.

Nonetheless, “The investigation continues, this is just a stop on the road. We are continuing to work with all forces, providing and receiving information.”

Although it was said that work to identify all victims could take up to one month according to preliminary estimates for events of this kind, the IML and its staff worked with intensity, rigor, and dedication to identify all victims in just eight days. “All the bodies were physically there, we had as many bodies as victims. Sometimes this is not the case with disasters of this kind,” stated Rabell.

To this must be added Cuba’s experience and preparation in managing disaster situations. “Cuba wrote the chapter on managing fatalities of disasters in the Pan American Health Organization’s manual. This is the process to be followed. We put that which is established into practice (…) working in shifts over 24 hours, during which our doctors, technicians, professionals, and security officials, have worked like a clock.”

The bodies indentified include 67 victims from Holguín; 21 from Havana; three from Granma and three from Santiago de Cuba; two from Matanzas and the same number from the Isle of Youth Special Municipality, one from Las Tunas, seven Mexicans, two Argentines, and two individuals from Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

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Good Student and Classmate. That is the way Grettell Landrove is remembered

Grettel Landrove Font was known to be an excellent student, always caring about her classmates. A disciplined girl determined to overcome any obstacle. She was one of the three survivors of the plane crash. Sadly, she passed away this Monday.

She would be graduated from Industrial Engineering at the Polytechnic University Jose Antonio Echeverria (CUJAE) this year. In her sixth year, she was immersed in the conclusion of her thesis on the redesign of the Hotel Tryp Habana Libre.

Classmates, professors, and management board of the above-mentioned university, leaders of the Federation of University Students (FEU), among others, shared the sad hours with Grettell’s family and friends in the funeral ceremonies held at the funeral parlor located in Calzada and K Streets.

Ariacne Jimenez and Ania Diaz told CAN that both joined Grettell as a team. All had the same professor, thesis tutor, and subject.

Her death has been a devastating blow. We are deeply sad at the university. Those who go to know her in the year and a half she lived here in Havana after coming from the University of Holguin, can attest she was intelligent, easy-going girl, full of life and dreams.

We were three Grettells in the classroom. And every time we faced an exam, and some comments led you think one of us had failed, you can bet Landrove Font did not. That is why it hurts so much that one month prior to get her degree as Industrial Engineer, she cannot fulfill such dream, Grettel Gakin said.

Karen Lopez, Claudia Pena, and William Castellanos stated that she had a good-natured mood. She was friendly and did her best to obtain good results in every test. She sometimes asked to do some of the exams in an extraordinary period so she could honor her work.

The young girl, one of the three survivors of the plane crash that occurred in Havana last Friday, was hospitalized at the Intensive Care Unit of the Calixto Garcia Hospital, as she had severe brain injuries.

At the time of her death, she was extremely critical and the multidisciplinary medical team could not reverse the situation, according to the official statement of the Ministry of Public Health.

With Grettell’s death, the number of victims rises to 111.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz//CubaSi Translation Staff

Grettel Landrove died, Plane Crash Death Toll Climbs To 111

The two other survivors, also women, remain in critical condition due to severe burns and other trauma, according to the hospital treating them.

The death toll from last week's plane crash in Cuba rose to 111 on Monday as one of the three survivors, 23-year-old Grettel Landrove, died in a Havana hospital, Cuban state-run media said.

The two other survivors, also women, remain in critical condition due to severe burns and other trauma, the director of the hospital where they are being treated told the state-run broadcaster, Reuters reports.

Several world leaders sent their condolences to the people of Cuba following the crash of the Boeing 737, which crashed shortly after take-off from Havana's Jose Marti International Airport and was en route to Holguin with 114 passengers and crew on board.

The plane was a 39-year-old 737 that a little-known Mexican company called Damojh had leased to Cuban flagship carrier Cubana.

Mexico's civil aviation authority suspended Damojh's operations on Monday as former complaints about its maintenance practices and safety standards emerged.

In Possession of Relatives Identified Remains of Air Disaster in Cuba

The director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine of Cuba, Sergio Rabell, stated today that 36 relatives were in possession of the remains identified until the moment of the air disaster ocurred last Friday in this capital.

In statements to journalists, the official said that experts continue to work to establish the identity of the other 74 fatal victims of the accident in the Boeing 737-200, leased by Cubana de Aviación, which with 113 people on board crashed shortly after taking off from the José Martí International airport.

Rabell offered details of the process at the Institute's headquarters and assured that 'when we give a positive identification, we are 100% certaint that the body we are delivering is what we say it is'.

When the person is identified, a group moves to the place where the family members are so that they do not have to come and to alleviate their pain, a team that includes specialists, Civil Registry authorities in charge of preparing the documents, psychologists and psychiatrists, among others, he pointed out.

He also explained that a system of at least two daily parts has been created to keep both Cuban and foreign relatives informed.

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Bolivian Government Provides Aid for Rain Victims

Deputy Minister of Civil Defense Carlos Brú affirmed that the Bolivian government guarantees assistance to all those affected by the heavy rains that affect several departments of the country.

Brú added that the exact damages of the emergency are not still quantified because it is a developing phenomenon, while reiterating the government's willingness to help the victims.

He commented that, along with other institutions, the Vice Ministry of Civil Defense helps with the delivery of food, habitable tents and supports the deployment of the Armed Forces troops in the affected areas.

The official highlighted the timely disaster response system in Bolivia which is organized from the municipal, departmental and national levels.

In his appearance in the program El pueblo es noticia of Bolivia TV, he reiterated the call to the population made by the president, Evo Morales, that the first thing is to save life and then material goods.

The latest report from the authorities estimated that the families affected by the floods and landslides stands at 14,900.

Likewise, the main departments affected are La Paz, Beni, Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, Potosí and Tarija.

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1 dead as Harvey spins deeper into Texas; full scope of damage is unknown

Harvey spun deeper into Texas and unloaded extraordinary amounts of rain Saturday after the once-fearsome hurricane crashed into vulnerable homes and businesses along the coastline in a blow that killed at least one person and injured up to 14.

Throughout the region between Corpus Christi and Houston, many people feared that toll was only the beginning. Authorities did not know the full scope of damage because weather conditions prevented emergency crews from getting into the hardest-hit places. And they dreaded the destruction that was yet to come from a storm that could linger for days and unload more than 40 inches (100 centimeters) of rain on cities, including dangerously flood-prone Houston, the nation's fourth-largest.

In the island community of Port Aransas, population 3,800, officials were unable to fully survey the town because of "massive" damage. Police and heavy equipment had only made it into the northernmost street.

"I can tell you I have a very bad feeling and that's about it," said Mayor Charles Bujan, who had called for a mandatory evacuation but did not know how many heeded the order.

Some of the worst damage appeared to be in Rockport, a coastal city of about 10,000 that was directly in the storm's path. The mayor said his community took a blow "right on the nose" that left "widespread devastation," including homes, businesses and schools that were heavily damaged. Some structures were destroyed.

Rockport's roads were a mess of toppled power poles. A trailer blocked much of one major intersection. Wood framing from ripped-apart houses was strewn along Route 35 on the town's southern end.

Harvey's relentless wind tore the metal sides off the high school gym and twisted the steel door frame of its auditorium.

"We're still in the very infancy stage of getting this recovery started," said Aransas County spokesman Larry Sinclair.

Rockport Mayor Charles "C.J." Wax told The Weather Channel that the city's emergency response system had been hampered by the loss of cellphone service and other forms of communication.

A day earlier, Rockport Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Rios offered ominous advice, telling people who chose not to evacuate to mark their arms with Sharpie pens, implying that the marks would make it easier for rescuers to identify them.

As many as 14 people suffered minor injuries, including slips and falls, scrapes and a broken leg, Aransas County Judge C.H. "Burt" Mills Jr. said. The lone fatality confirmed so far was a person caught in a fire at home during the storm, Mills said. He did not identify the victim.

About 300,000 customers were without power statewide. Gov. Greg Abbott said it would probably be several days before electricity is restored.

Meanwhile, the storm slowed to a crawl of only 2 mph (3 kph). Rainfall totals varied across the region, with Corpus Christi and Galveston receiving around 3 inches (8 centimeters), Houston 7 (18 centimeters) and Aransas 10 (25 centimeters). Tiny Austwell got 15 inches (38 centimeters).

Elsewhere in the storm's immediate aftermath, Coast Guard helicopters rescued 18 people from boats and barges in distress, said Capt. Tony Hahn, commander of the Corpus Christi sector.

The Corpus Christi port was closed with extensive damage. Because the city is the third-largest petrochemical port in the nation, the agency will be on the lookout for spills, Hahn said.

The fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in more than a decade came ashore late Friday about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Corpus Christi as a mammoth Category 4 storm with 130 mph (209 kph) winds.

Harvey weakened to a tropical storm by midday Saturday. At 6 p.m., its maximum sustained winds had fallen to about 60 mph (96 kph). The storm was centered about 70 miles (113 km) southeast of San Antonio, the National Hurricane Center said.

The hurricane posed the first major emergency management test of President Donald Trump's administration.

Trump met with his Cabinet and other senior administration officials to discuss the federal response to the damage and flooding, the White House said Saturday in a statement.

The president held a video conference from Camp David in which he instructed departments and agencies to "stay fully engaged and positioned to support his number one priority of saving lives," the statement said.

Trump, who on Friday signed a federal disaster declaration for coastal counties, also reminded department heads that the full impact of the storm will not be apparent for days. On Twitter, he commended the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for his handling of the disaster.

In Corpus Christi, the major city closest to the storm's center, wind whipped palm trees and stinging sheets of horizontal rain slapped against hotels and office buildings along the seawall as the storm made landfall.

Daybreak revealed downed lamp posts and tree limbs and roof tiles torn off buildings. Along Interstate 45 leaving Galveston, the rain was so intense that drivers stopped under bridges because they could not see in front of them.

Rain fell on Houston at nearly 3 inches (8 centimeters) an hour, leaving some streets and underpasses underwater. The many drainage channels known as bayous that carry excess water to the Gulf were flowing freely and rising.

"Flooding is a minor issue so far," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the chief administrator of the county that includes Houston, said. "Most of the watersheds are well within banks, but we're not out of this."

Francisco Sanchez, with the Harris County Emergency Management Office, said the storm would be around for a while.

"Someone is going to get those very high rainfall totals," he said. "Hopefully it's not us, but we're in that possibility area."

South of the city, about 4,500 inmates were evacuated from three state prisons in Brazoria County because the nearby Brazos River was rising.

The turbulent weather extended into southern Louisiana, where motorists were cautioned about the potential for high water, road hazards, high winds and tornadoes.

Harvey came ashore as the fiercest hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961's Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record.

The storm's approach sent tens of thousands of people fleeing inland.

Just hours before landfall, the governor and Houston leaders issued conflicting statements on evacuation.

The governor urged more people to flee, but Houston officials recommended no widespread evacuations, citing greater danger in having people on roads that could flood and the fact that the hurricane was not taking direct aim at the city.

The last Category 4 storm to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Charley in August 2004 in Florida.

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