People living alongside the Mekong River are warned to be extra vigilant over possible flooding this week, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Meteorology and Hydrology Department has warned.
The river is rising because of heavy rains in northern Laos after the remnants of tropical storm Bebinca moved across the region last week.
Flooding has already occurred in low-lying areas of Vientiane as well as in other parts of the country. The warning was issued yesterday after the river level began rising rapidly a few days ago, flooding houses, shops and crops. Many people and their livestock have moved to safer areas as a temporary measure.
The authorities are now working to help those who have been displaced by floods. The rise in the Mekong has caused widespread inundation with many people comparing the situation to the floods of 2008.
A report issued yesterday said the river had flooded 58 families out of 386 houses in Nongda village and 13 families out of 769 houses in Tadthong village, Sikhottabong district, and authorities are helping residents to move to safe areas.
Meanwhile, in Hadxaifong district only five villages out of 36 villages along the Mekong river had been flooded as of yesterday. The number of affected families was not reported and the river had not yet risen to the danger level, according to district governor Mr Kane Vorasane.
"However, district authorities and villagers are keeping a close watch on the river and are moving their belongings to safer places," he added. Head of the Weather Forecasting and Warning Division at the Meteorology and Hydrology Department, Mr Bounteum Sisouphanthavong, told Vientiane Times they were monitoring weather conditions constantly and working in collaboration with the meteorology and hydrology departments of other countries.
"When the Mekong rises above 11 metres in lowland areas of Vientiane, or other extreme weather conditions are forecast, we immediately send out warnings to the officials concerned, as well as issuing statements on Facebook, websites, radio broadcasts, television and other media outlets, to let people know what's happening," he said.
Although rainfall in Vientiane has not been heavy recently, yesterday the level of the Mekong in Vientiane was 11.65 metres at Km 4, while the warning level is 11.50 metres and the danger level is 12.50 metres. In Pakxe the river was measured at 11.68 metres, not far off the danger level of 12 metres.
The Mekong rose yesterday following torrential rain in the upstream provinces of Oudomxay, Luang Prabang, Xieng Khuang, Xayaboury and Huaphan.
In Luang Prabang province, the level of the Mekong measured 16.37 metres yesterday, close to the warning level of 17 metres. The river was 13.49 metres in Pakxan district, Borikhamxay province, touching the warning level of 13.50 metres, and in Thakhaek district, Khammuan province, it measured 12.60 metres, close to the warning level of 13 metres.
The forecast for today is that in Vientiane the river will rise to 12.22 metres at Km 4. In Luang Prabang it is predicted to be 16.35 metres, in Pakxan district 13.84 metres, in Thakhaek 12.84 metres, in Savannakhet 10.64 metres, and in Pakxe the level is forecast to hit 11.72 metres. The hydrology official said that, although relatively little rain was forecast for the next few days, people who live in low-lying areas along the Mekong in Vientiane and other parts of the country should be on the alert for heavy rain, flash floods, landslides and other hazards.
The authorities are also warning people living near the Nam Ngum and Xebangfay rivers to move their belongings to higher land and to pay close attention to weather forecasts and emergency announcements from the authorities.
Everyone is urged to keep a close eye on weather alerts issued by the the Environment's Meteorology and Hydrology Department.