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By Khanh Vu
HANOI (Reuters) - Floods from a burst dam in Laos have inundated thousands of hectares of paddy fields in Vietnam's rice-growing Mekong Delta region, officials said on Wednesday, although the damage is limited and not expected to affect the country's export crop.
A saddle dam that was part of Laos' $1.2 billion (£914.6 million) Xe-Pian Xe-Namnoy hydropower project collapsed last week, sending torrents of water crashing into neighbouring villages.
At least 11 people were killed in the accident, and a further 120 people are still missing, the state-run Vientiane Times in Laos reported on Wednesday.
"The flood water is hampering the ongoing harvest of the summer-autumn rice crop in some areas, especially in Dong Thap, Long An and An Giang provinces," Tran Xuan Dinh, deputy head of the Department of Crop Production under Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, told Reuters.
The Mekong Delta is the largest rice-growing area in Vietnam, which is the world's third-largest rice exporter after India and Thailand.
The water level in the Mekong Delta region has risen by 7-10 centimetres (3-4 inches) since the dam burst, Dinh said.
Although heavy rains and excess waters from the dam in Laos have damaged crops, the impact of the floods will not significantly impact rice production, said Nguyen Si Lam, deputy director of An Giang province's agricultural department.
Farmers in the delta provinces have planted more than 1.69 million hectares of rice for the summer-autumn crop, with unhusked paddy output estimated at 9.51 million tonnes, an increase of 3 percent in terms of output from a year ago, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Farmers in the Mekong Delta have brought in more than 40 percent of the summer-autumn rice crop and the harvest is expected to end in 15-20 days, Dinh said.
"The flooding season in the Mekong Delta was previously forecast to begin around August 5-7, but the water from Laos made it start sooner," he said.
(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by James Pearson and Tom Hogue)