Two Cambodia-Laos border soldiers in Stung Treng province went missing on Thursday after a temporary bridge collapsed in Nhaingsu village in Siem Pang district’s Thma Keo commune, sending them and their motorbike crashing into the torrential waters below.
Police identified the missing men as Sok Sovanndy and Phy Nidali, two artillery soldiers stationed in Siempang district’s O’alay area.
Strung Treng provincial police chief Mao Dara told The Post that the incident occurred on Wednesday morning when one of the soldiers was riding a motorbike to take the other to receive treatment for malaria at the hospital.
The men fell into the strong-flowing water as they crossed the bridge, which Dara said had been constructed temporarily from wood and soil to allow border soldiers to access their station.
“While they were crossing, it suddenly collapsed. If there hadn’t been any rain, there wouldn’t have been a problem, because people often ride motorbikes along this road.
“But it had been raining for the last few days, and the water was flowing very strongly. People built a wooden bridge there while they were waiting for a concrete bridge to be built – it’s not a strong bridge,” he said.
A video capturing the incident showed that the 10m-long bridge was constructed from round logs with a metre-high layer of compacted soil on top of the timber.
In the video, the bridge suddenly collapsed when the two soldiers were more than halfway across.
The new concrete bridge, he said, was about 90 per cent complete.
The police had been hindered in their search and rescue efforts by the strength of the water, which flowed into the Mekong River, he said.
He ordered police in all districts to spread the word among villagers living along the Mekong River to help search for the two men. “This area has a lot of streams and water flows down from the mountains into the river. There are a lot of mountains and when it rains, water always flows into the streams.
“The streams start to flow so strongly that villagers all around the area don’t dare to cross after it’s been raining,” Dara said.
Deputy Stung Treng province artillery commander That Sokhai confirmed he had not received any information that the missing soldiers had been found.