Cam Tuyen, Cam Lo District, Quang Tri (14 July 2010)
Hundreds of unexploded cluster munitions, known as bombies, are being removed this week by a Project RENEW EOD team from near the foundation of a home in Ba Thung Village, Cam Tuyen Commune of Cam Lo District.
Mr. Le Quang Minh, a carpenter who lives there with his family of six, desperately wanted the RENEW EOD team to come and remove the lingering fear he had carried silently for many years. “I want my children to live safely and healthily,” said Mr. Minh, the reason he called the RENEW team and asked for their help.
Ten years ago, while Mr. Minh was away, some local scrap collectors found a large number of unexploded bombs in a dispenser. They dug a pit, backfilled the pit with dirt to cover it up, and left. Minh was aware that the ordnance was buried near his house, and this year decided to take action.
One of the collectors who buried the ordnance years ago, who still lives in the same village, came back to help Mr. Minh and the RENEW EOD team find the site and locate the cache of cluster bombs buried near the house. The team began excavation work, and over a period of three days they found more than 200 cluster bombs. Most were rusted and corroded, but the fuses were still hazardous if disturbed.
According to Truong Cong Vinh, EOD Team Leader for Project RENEW, the task will continue for a few days more since they expect to find additional cluster bombs as they dig to a depth of two meters.
Meanwhile another EOD team from RENEW is responding to a UXO alert from a farmer, Mr. Le Can who lives in Phu Luu Village, Trieu Long Commune of Trieu Phong District. He also knew there was ordnance buried near his house. “For many years, my family has been afraid that the ordnance will explode,” said Mr. Can.
After the war ended in 1975, Can said his family returned and settled on their old land. When he saw a bit of exposed bomb casing on the ground during that time, he decided to cover it up and continue building his house there because he knew it was nearly impossible to find anyone qualified to help him remove the ordnance safely. The information he provided the team indicates that the ordnance might be located underneath his daughter’s room, and the description indicates it might be a naval projectile.
“At that time,” Can said, “people had to take it for granted that bombs and mines were there, we had to accommodate ourselves to the danger because we had no choice. However, some recent incidents with munitions detonating after decades of lying in the ground have frightened us,” he said, prompting him to notify the RENEW disposal team.
Four years ago, also in Trieu Phong District, an explosion in March 2006 severely damaged the home of Mr. Phan Truong in Ha My Village, Trieu Hoa Commune. The explosion created a large crater just beneath his bed. Fortunately, no one was injured, since Mr. Truong was working in the field and his wife and his children were outside in the garden.
These cases are among hundreds of EOD tasks which are being responded to by Project RENEW teams in partnership with Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA). In the past two years, in Cam Lo and Trieu Phong Districts, RENEW’s EOD teams have safely removed thousands of UXO found in people’s gardens, in rice fields, along roadsides, near schools – and near the foundations of houses.
But today, instead of taking this threat for granted and hoping their families can survive without injury or death, local residents are now contacting Project RENEW and other mine action projects and requesting assistance. With encouragement from local authorities and international organizations, local people are beginning to realize that they no longer have to risk their lives by remaining silent.
Project RENEW is a partnership between the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the Quang Tri Province People’s Committee, with the goal of Restoring the Environment and Neutralizing the Effects of the War. Project RENEW receives funding and technical support from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Defense, Norwegian People’s Aid, Trauma Care Foundation, the Humpty Dumpty Foundation, the government of Taiwan, foundations and other institutions, and many individual veterans and donors.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is the nonprofit organization authorized by the U.S. Congress to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C., which is the most visited memorial in the nation’s capital.