Empresas y finanzas

Mekong hits highest level in at least 100 years

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Four people have been killed in flooding and landslides in Laos, where the Mekong river has hit its highest level in at least 100 years after several months of unusually heavy rain, officials said on Friday.

The communist government and private citizens in thelandlocked Southeast Asian country have been rushing tocomplete a 2.5 metre (8 ft) wall of sandbags to stop waterinundating the capital, Vientiane.

Police have closed roads leading to the riverbank to makeit easier for trucks delivering sandbags, the officialVientiane Times reported.

"We've been fighting very hard day and night for four days,but after today the water level should recede," governmentspokesman Yong Chanhthalansy told Reuters in Bangkok.

The Mekong, which starts in the glaciers of Tibet and ends4,350 km (2,700 miles) away in the rice-rich delta of southernVietnam, hit 13.68 metres in Vientiane on Thursday, trouncing ahigh of 12.38 metres recorded in 1966, the worst floods inliving memory.

That depth -- measured roughly from the river's lowestlevel in the dry season -- could rise slightly on Friday beforeretreating, Yong said.

Vietnam was recently hit by heavy rains, floods andmudslides as the remnants of a tropical storm caused thecountry's worst floods in four decades. At least 120 peoplewere killed and another 44 remain missing.

In Vientiane, a levee was built along the Mekong's northernbank after the 1966 flooding but has been overrun in places,causing flooding in parts of the city of 200,000, one residentsaid.

There had been widespread flooding upstream and north ofVientiane, although the former royal capital of Luang Prabanghad escaped with no damage to its ancient Buddhist pagodas,Yong said.

Downstream, eastern Thailand and low-lying Cambodia, wherethe annual flooding of the Mekong is crucial to rice and fishproduction, are braced for the rising waters. Cambodia'scapital, Phnom Penh, sits right on the bank of the river.

Government officials said they had warned people livingnear the Mekong in the provinces of Kompong Cham, Kratie andStung Treng to move their families and livestock to higherground.

(Reporting by Ed Cropley and Ek Madra; Editing by AlanRaybould and Valerie Lee)