16 dead after heavy rains batter Laos

At least 16 people have died and tens of thousands of others have lost homes, land or livestock across Laos in heavy rains, the United Nations said Tuesday.

The deaths occurred during flash floods after downpours in the northwestern district of Beng on August 20, the UN's resident co-ordinator for the impoverished communist country said in a statement.

More than 115,000 people "have been affected by the flooding," the statement said, without giving figures for the number left homeless.

Thousands of hectares of rice paddy have been inundated while livestock has been killed in rain since June, it said.

"The heavy rainfall that began in June has continued unabated and has resulted in widespread flooding particularly in the northern and central parts of the country," the statement said, adding that food and help to rebuild homes were needed immediately.

Over the coming months Laos will need to rebuild infrastructure damaged or swept away by floodwaters, the UN said, estimating the cost of the damage at more than $17 million.

Laos is a poor, landlocked country of about six million people which is governed by a secretive communist regime.