Safety Advisory: Laos

More than 10,000 people have been affected by a catastrophic dam collapse in southern Laos, according to figures published by the United Nations.

An unknown number of houses were washed away in the torrent, with aerial images of the aftermath showing what appear to be entire villages submerged by muddy brown water. Survivors could be seen clinging onto rooftops, while others paddled through the flooded areas on makeshift rafts and boats.

Travelers around the area have been advised to seek shelter and report their status to the embassy as soon as possible.

Nineteen bodies have been discovered by authorities and more than 1,300 houses found damaged, as rescuers descend on Sanamxay district, in Laos' Attapeu Province, according to state-news agencies.

Exactly how many people have been affected remains unclear. A Laos government official told in a statement that he expects the water level to decrease in the coming days and that people will be able to return to their villages.

In some areas, the water levels have decreased and people can now pass in their vehicles, according to the official. The rescue is still ongoing and survivors are being relocated to the highest building in the area.

The Xepian Xe Nam Noy dam, a billion dollar hydro-power project part financed by South Korea, was still under construction when the breach occurred at around 8 p.m. on Monday night. The collapse of the dam, which occurred suddenly and without warning, unleashed approximately five billion cubic meters of water -- equivalent to two million Olympic-size swimming pools -- onto the surrounding countryside, according to state news agencies.

Authorities have made a public appeal for emergency aid for the victims of the flooding, including clothing, food, water, and medicine.

The disaster is so far known to have affected at least six villages in the Sanamxay district of Attapeu province. Laos authorities have not given any official information yet about how badly the dam has been damaged, what caused it to break or when the flooding is expected to recede.

Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Company Limited, one of the dam's four shareholders, said the incident was caused by the "continuous rainstorm which caused high volume of water to flow into the Project's reservoir".