Man crushed to death during dam construction in central Vietnam

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The broken section of the Dak Mek 3 hydropower dam under construction in Kon Tum Province.

A man was killed when a segment of a dam under construction broke in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum on November 22 and the investor waited three days to report the incident after local media found out.

Thanh Nien reporter on November 26 found a 60-meter section of the Dak Mek 3 dam at the foot of a mountain in Dak Glei District came tumbling down, crushing one worker to death.

Le Ba Thanh, director of Hong Phat Dak Mek Hydropower JSC, which invested more than VND200 billion (US$9.60 million) into the project, said: "The dam could not sustain the heavy loads of rock poured upon it during construction."

The accident's lone fatality, Nguyen Viet Hung, 28, a driver, was standing nearby and slipped.

The company recovered his body and has reportedly compensated his family VND50 million (US$2,400).

A local living near the dam told Tuoi Tre he heard a loud crash as he bathed his son downstream from the dam and thought it was an earthquake. Then he saw billows of dust hovering in the sky above the dam.

The dam's investor director earlier told Tuoi Tre that a dump truck full of rock had crashed into the dam, causing a series of collapses at 5:30 p.m.

He said the incident was a labor-related accident and it had nothing to do with the dam's quality.

"I can guarantee that construction on the dam has been properly executed," Thanh said.

But Tuoi Tre found that soil and sand, as opposed to rock, had been used to build part of the dam.


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Other than the fatality, Thanh said no one had been injured, but local health official Cao Van Duong said he treated somebody injured as a result of the accident.  Duong said that he no longer knew whereabouts of that individual.

The Dak Mek 3 project began in March 2009 and had been scheduled to start operating in 2013, with a capacity of 7.5 megawatts.

District authorities said they were only informed of the accident on Monday.

Do Hoang Lien Son, director of the province's Construction Department, said he doubted the dam's quality.The construction company in charge of building the dam is subsidiary of Hong Phat Dak Mek Hydropower JSC.

"The investor and the constructor are family, so we cannot be sure that the dam has been built according to the design approved by the province.

"The investor also hired its own supervisor."

The dam is one of around 40 small-scale plants in central Vietnam with capacities lower than 30 megawatts each.

Early in October, the eight megawatt Dakrong 2 hydropower dam in the central province of Quang Tri also partially broke during its trial run.

Its investor, Truong Son Hydropower JSC, waited a week to report the incident, saying construction on that part of the dam was not finished and blamed the collapse on torrential rains from typhoon Gaemi.

There were no casualties in that case, but damage to the dam and flooded fields has been estimated to be approximately VND20 billion (US$956,000).

Also in October, Quang Nam Province, which has plans for 44 hydropower plants, the most in the central region, canceled two small dams with officials explaining that they had a greater capacity to hurt than to help.

Industry authorities in the nearby Quang Ngai followed by asking provincial authorities to scrap plans six of 23 approved dam projects.

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