Cam Lo, Quang Tri (30 May 2011)
It was the third visit that the RENEW clearance team had made to the Ho Chon Nhon School, where 310 primary students were studying. But this time the team would stay longer, determined to continue working until the school was made totally safe from cluster bombs, landmines, and other unexploded ordnance.
Ho Chon Nhon School is located along Route 9 which runs through Cam Lo Townlet, where fierce fighting took place during the war. It is no surprise that unexploded cluster bombs, landmines and other ordnance are still scattered on the ground in the area. However, it was a shock when deadly explosives were found at a school that was opened 10 years ago, and where hundreds of primary students have been studying and playing every day since then.
In April, Project RENEW sent an EOD Quick Response Team to Ho Chon Nhon School to remove one landmine found by bricklayers, and one rifle grenade found by third-grade students.
“They called us first in April to report that a landmine was unearthed while local workers were installing a lightning rod for a new classroom building,” said Duyet, Deputy Team Leader. “Most of the workers refused to continue working for the contractor for fear of bombs and mines,” Duyet said.
One week later, the team paid a second visit to the school to remove a rifle grenade found by students during break-time, in the schoolyard where the students play. The item was uncovered after a torrential rain the night before. Thanks to UXO safety messages provided by RENEW working with trained Youth Union volunteers, the students did not touch the item, but reported it to their teachers immediately.
According to Ms. Le Thi Huynh, Ho Chon Nhon school principal, the school was built in 1992 on land where a former military base was located in Cam Lo District during wartime. No clearance was done when the school was first built.
“We’re in the process of expanding our school facilities, so when UXO was found within the school grounds, we decided to ask the RENEW clearance team to help clean up the land where a new multi-function building will be constructed,” said Ms. Huynh. “We fear that more bombs and mines might be under the ground where that new building will be built,” she said.
Clearing UXO in at a crowded school site is never an easy task, according to Team Leader Ngo Thien Khiet. The team has to coordinate closely with the school’s administrators in order not to interfere with the school’s scheduled activities and to ensure the safety of hundreds of young students as well.
“Now we have become a multi-skilled team in charge of providing EOD quick response or battle area clearance operations – whatever is needed,” said Khiet. “Every morning, our team conducts clearance at the school, and in the afternoon we respond to UXO sightings reported by the local community.”
Later that same day, the team would be mobilized and shift to Tan Lap Village to investigate three UXO sightings that were passed on that morning from the RENEW community survey team, Khiet said.
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