The bodies of six of the 10 schoolchildren who were feared drowned after a makeshift ferry capsized in the Nam Ngum on Tuesday have been recovered by rescue teams from Laos and Thailand.
The children, aged 10-12, were pupils at local primary schools. Rescue teams have been scouring the river in search of the missing youngsters after the boat capsized in Pakngum district, Vientiane.
Authorities said the teams recovered the first body, that of a girl, at 4:30pm on Wednesday and later that night found four more bodies about 3km downstream from the spot where the boat capsized.
The teams resumed their search yesterday morning but were hampered by strong currents. They eventually found the body of a boy at 1:55 pm, about 2km downstream from where the boat turned over, according to a member of the Vientiane Rescue Team.
The children whose bodies have been recovered so far were named as Miss Silian, 12, Miss Kom, 12, Miss Katty, 10, and Miss Koung, 12, from Huanathong village, and Miss Pathoumma, 11, and Mr Vatsana, 11, from Phonkham village. Following identification the bodies have been returned to temples in their villages for funeral ceremonies.
Meanwhile the search continues for the four children who are still missing: Miss Lathsamy, 13, from Phonkham village, and Miss Phaephoy, 11, Miss Phouna, 10, and Mr Saengchanh, 11, from Huanathong village.
A member of the rescue team told Vientiane Times yesterday they would do everything they could to find the missing children, saying “With strong support from the authorities, our team hopes to recover the remaining bodies in the next couple of days.”
Pakngum district Governor Mr Vongdeuane Bounyasaeng said the authorities had sent numerous officials to investigate the incident. They had been given emergency funding of 50 million kip by the Vientiane Administration Office as a contribution towards the search for the missing children.
Businesses, organisations and other donors have provided various forms of assistance, including food, beverages and cash for use by district authorities, a local official said.
Commenting on the tragedy, members of the public have said it is essential that all ferry boats around the country are equipped with life jackets and that passengers are made to wear them.
Other issues that need addressing are the overloading of small boats and the lack of safety inspections.