Floods in Laos kill 20, damage rice crops

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Flash floods and heavy monsoon rains have battered Laos, killing at least 20 people, washing away roads and damaging crops, a U.N. official said on Wednesday.

Rains along with typhoons that grazed Laos in June and July have affected about 116,000 people in seven of 17 provinces, leaving many without access to clean water, and damaged 14,000 hectares (5,400 sq miles) of rice, the United Nations said.

“We’ve had near-misses from typhoons in the north of the country and received the rains that came with them,” Glenn Dodge, head of the U.N. Resident Coordinator’s office in Laos, told Reuters by telephone from Vientiane.

The United Nations warned last year that the country of 6.4 million could face more natural disasters due to climate change and needed to be better prepared.

Isolated for decades, Laos has become one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies thanks to a mining and hydro-power boom.

The landlocked Communist country is constructing a $3.5 billion Chinese-backed hydropower dam — the first of 11 planned for the lower Mekong river — despite concerns raised by environmentalists. (Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Jason Szep and Ron Popeski)