Three students killed by hydropower plant discharge in central Vietnam

By Xuan Ngoc   May 24, 2017 | 10:48 pm GMT+7

The whereabouts of a fourth student caught up in the current remains unknown.

Four students were washed away on Wednesday morning while bathing in the Ba River in the central province of Phu Yen.

The 6th grade students from Cung Son Middle School were playing near the Tha Waterfall, 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) from their school, when water released from a hydropower plant up the Ba River swept them away. Three of their friends who had been standing on the bank when the incident occurred raised the alarm and rescue services were subsequently dispatched to the scene.

Hours later, the bodies of three of the students were found about 100 meters (330 feet) from where the incident occurred. As of 3:30 p.m., the remaining student was still missing, according to Tien Phong newspaper.

Ba Ha River Hydropower Station was discharging water at a rate of 350 cubic meters per second at the time of the incident, according to To Phuong Bac, vice chairman of Son Hoa District. “The students were bathing downstream when they saw the incoming current. They panicked and tried to swim to the river bank, but couldn't make it in time and were washed away,” Bac said.

The hydropower plant was following discharge protocols that have been in place for the last 10 years, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported Dang Van Tuan, CEO of the company that operates the plant, as saying.

The company only informs authorities and locals when discharges flow over the spillway, not when it is generating electricity, as was the case on Wednesday morning.

Drowning is the second biggest killer of Vietnam's teenagers, only behind road deaths, according to data released by the World Health Organization.