Cam Lo, Quang Tri (14 October 2014)
One of Project RENEW’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams yesterday took action to safely remove a piece of unexploded ordnance (UXO) from a kindergarten attended by 150 toddlers in Cam Lo Ha Village of Cam Thanh Commune. RENEW’s quick response came immediately after a Youth Union official called the Project RENEW hotline number and reported the discovery.
“We have already received five reports of UXO sightings today,” said EOD Team Leader Le Xuan Tung, “but this case is the most urgent because the ordnance was inside the grounds of the kindergarten. So our team had to get there as our first priority, and we will deal with other reports later on today.”
Earlier the deputy head of the Youth Union in the commune, Nguyen Thanh Hieu, was alerted by the kindergarten’s principal, Ms. Nguyen Thi Hong, that a bomb had been found in the preschool’s garden. Hieu, a member of RENEW’s Community Reporting Network made up of Youth Union officials, has been trained on basic UXO identification skills. When he determined the type of UXO he called the RENEW team immediately.
About half an hour later, the EOD team arrived at the kindergarten where Hieu was waiting to pinpoint the UXO location for them.
“It is a 100mm artillery shell which had been here for years,” Team Leader Le Xuan Tung said. “Torrential rains in the past few days exposed it,” he explained, “and we have now removed it to our central demolition site for later destruction.”
It is not uncommon to find UXO in schools in Quang Tri Province. In January 2010, there was thunderous crack from an ordnance explosion in the playground of a middle school. The blast occurred just five minutes before recess, when more than 500 students were scheduled to take a break from their studies. The ordnance, identified later as a 105mm artillery shell, had been hidden for years under the roots of a large tree stump only 20 meters away from the nearest classroom. Fortunately, nobody was hurt by the powerful explosion, which resounded throughout the neighborhood, but the windows of the school were shattered.
The safe removal of the UXO from the kindergarten in Cam Lo may have saved the lives of some of the 150 toddlers and teachers nearby. People like Ms. Hong, the kindergarten principal, and Youth Union volunteer Hieu are truly the “eyes and ears” of RENEW’s EOD teams. When such alerts are relayed by them, the EOD teams know exactly what type of ordnance has been found, where it is located, and the urgency required for their response. They waste no time in searching. They prioritize their responses and take direct action, within minutes or hours.
From January to September 2014, Project RENEW received 346 reports of UXO discoveries through the Community Reporting Network, resulting in 565 items of UXO being safely destroyed.