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3 workers missing in China-Cambodia dam accident

Updated: 2012-12-05 08:07
( Agencies/China Daily)

China on Tuesday confirmed that three Cambodian workers are missing after a dam accident in Cambodia, and search-and-rescue work is under way.

The workers disappeared after an accident at the China-Cambodia joint project, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news conference on Tuesday.

"Relevant companies are cooperating with the local government, taking flood-prevention measures, making all-out search-and-rescue efforts and investigating the cause of the incident," Hong said.

The tunnel at the Atay River hydropower dam, which is being built in Pursat Province, ruptured on Saturday afternoon.

Police in Pursat said the tunnel cracked after succumbing to heavy water pressure. The tunnel was in use as water was being moved from the dam's reservoir to a dam turbine that was undergoing testing. The rupture did not damage the dam itself.

"Three men are still missing, four had their hands or legs broken and two men, including a Chinese national, were slightly injured," police told Xinhua News Agency in a phone interview.

"We concluded that the accident happened because the 10-meter-wide concrete tunnel was cracked, and it exploded when heavy water pressure hit it," he said.

Suy Sem, the Cambodian minister of industry, mines and energy, told Xinhua over the phone on Monday that officials still cannot be sure whether the missing workers died.

He said that it is a "small accident" that does not affect the dam or machines that operate it. "The blast broke only in the dam's tunnel, so the firm just fixes it, and everything is OK," he said.

The minister said that the dam was scheduled to undergo tests at the end of this year, but because of the rupture, the tests will be delayed because the water in the reservoir is gone.

The Atay River hydropower dam is in the jungle in O'Som commune, Veal Veng district, Pursat Province.

The project is a $255 million investment of China Datang Corp. The construction of the 120 megawatt hydropower dam started in May 2008 and it is expected to be complete in May 2013.

Datang should supply an investigation report on the accident with information for the public as soon as possible while conducting search-and-rescue work, said Song Yinghui, a researcher on Southeast Asian studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

It's too early to blame China for the accident before the investigation report comes out, she said, adding that it is irresponsible to condemn all Chinese-built infrastructure because of this accident.

Cambodia has a serious shortage of power facilities. Only about 20 percent of its households have access to reliable electricity.

Xinhua-China Daily