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Defusing bombs is a living with a high cost


HANOI (UCAN): Unexploded mines and bombs left over from wars in the 1960s and 1970s fought in the Thua Thien-Hue province of Vietnam are still claiming lives and causing injuries.

Yet, because they can be a source of income, some local people risk life and limb on a daily basis just to scrape a living.

“I used to collect 30 kilogrammes of military supplies and materials from the hills every day,” 32-year-old Nguyen Vinh Thoai told UCA News. “By selling it as scrap metal, I was making 200,000 dong ($77) to support my family. I was hoping to save enough money to build a house in the future.”

Then almost inevitably, in June last year Nguyen lost his left foot while defusing a bomb.

“I was given medical treatment at a local hospital for six months and now I can’t do anything, because the wound still hurts,” he says.

His wife has been forced to become the breadwinner in the family as a farm labourer. Together with 12 relatives, Nguyen and his family live in his parents’ 48-square metre house.

“I used to collect unexploded items to sell, so I could support my aged parents,” says another victim, Ngo Thi Boi. “But I lost one eye and my left arm while I was removing the rust and mud from a mine I’d pulled out of a river. I didn’t realise it was a mine until it exploded.”

A recurring series of wars and military engagements ravaged this province for decades. Even though hostilities abated in the 1970s, the local authorities estimate that 500,000 hectares of land in the region are still covered by unexploded ordnance.

Nationally, it is thought that the deadly war remains can be found over as much as 6.6 million hectares. Although rates have tapered off slightly in recent times, there are still around 1,370 explosion-related accidents per year, killing or injuring more than 3,800 people.

With the help of numerous non-government organisations and charities, the effort to safely clear the land of its deadly remnant is ongoing, but it is a mammoth task. So far, only 300,000 hectares of contaminated land has been cleared.

With an annual de-mining rate of around 20,000 hectares, it will take another 300 years to complete the job across the whole country, at an estimated cost of more than US$10 billion ($70.75 billion).

‘I used to collect unexploded items to sell…But I lost one eye and my left arm’


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