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Floods kill 130, drive thousands from homes in Southeast Asia

A boy played in flood waters yesterday at a shop east of Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Officials there said the flooding of the Mekong River was the worst in memory. A boy played in flood waters yesterday at a shop east of Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Officials there said the flooding of the Mekong River was the worst in memory. (Reuters)
By Seth Mydans
International Herald Tribune / August 18, 2008
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HANOI - Torrential rains and overflowing rivers have created some of the worst flooding in decades to Vietnam and its neighbors, flooding cities and farmlands in five nations.

At least 130 people were killed, dozens were missing and thousands were driven from their homes in northern Vietnam, and hundreds of tourists were forced to flee the resort area of Sapa.

Flooding has also hit parts of Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos as well as Burma, where waters rose in the Irrawaddy Delta. The delta region is still recovering from a cyclone that left 38,000 people dead or missing in May.

According to the official press in Burma, the floods affected much of the country, including the main city, Rangoon, as well as Mandalay in the center and the Karen and Mon states in the southeast.

In Vientiane, the capital of Laos, officials said the Mekong River had brought the worst flooding in memory, rising to nearly 45 feet above its lowest level in the dry season. The high water in Vientiane broke a record set in 1966 and overflowed a levee that was built after that flood.

Mudslides also cut the main road from Vientiane to the ancient capital of Luang Prabang, a city of temples and monasteries where the Mekong waters also rose.

In parts of northeastern Thailand, officials said the Mekong had reached its highest level in 30 years, inundating farmlands and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people in three provinces along the river, which divides Thailand from Laos.

Officials said the high water was caused by heavy downpours in southern China, Laos, and Thailand. As the high waters of the Mekong moved downstream, Cambodia and eastern Thailand prepared for major floods and officials warned residents in some areas to move to higher ground along with their livestock.

In Vietnam's southern Mekong delta, where the 2,700-mile river flows into the sea, forecasters said that rising waters had reached a critical level two weeks earlier than last year and that worse flooding lay ahead.

In northern Vietnam, the government said floodwaters peaked at close to their record levels of 1968. Military helicopters brought supplies to stranded residents and airlifted hundreds of Vietnamese and foreign tourists from Lao Cai, on the border with China.

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