Gio Linh District, Quang Tri Province (03-09-2009)
A dredging operation at the Ben Hai River, site of the former DMZ during wartime, resulted in serious injuries to a Quang Tri man when a piece of ordnance exploded in a pump mechanism he was using to suck sand from the river bottom.
Ly Thong, 35-year-old resident of Trung Son Commune in Gio Linh District, was injured on Tuesday, Sept. 1 while working with two other local men on a dredging boat on the Ben Hai River. Mr. Thong was cooling the dredging machine’s engine with water when a round of live ordnance exploded as it was being sucked through the tube that draws sand from the river bed.
The accident occurred about 22km upstream from the Ben Hai Bridge, the dividing line between north and south during the war, in Trung Son Commune of Gio Linh District. The explosion tore the dredging machine into fragments which injured Thong’s left leg and right hand. He was administered first aid by a nearby EOD clearance team from Mines Advisory Group (MAG) who rushed to the scene after they heard about the accident. The victim was transported to Quang Tri Province Hospital for emergency medical treatment and surgery.
Hospital staff said Mr. Thong suffered broken bones in his left leg and right hand which will require surgery. Earlier indications of possible head injuries caused by the concussive impact of the blast are no longer a matter of concern, doctors said. The attending physician said Mr. Thong’s injuries are not life threatening, and he is expected to recover.
According to Mr. Thong’s relatives, it is not uncommon for sand dredging operations to suck up small caliber unexploded ordnance such as cluster bombs or 40mm grenades mixed in with the sand. However, workers have assumed that the thick casings of the metal tubes, about 7mm, would be enough to protect them. In this case, a much larger piece of ordnance was sucked into the tube resulting in a serious explosion and shattering the tube.
The area on both sides of the Ben Hai River is considered one of the most contaminated areas of the country, littered with countless numbers of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) covered by sand or shallow water. Though it was called a “demilitarized zone” during the 20 years following the Geneva Accords in 1954, in fact it was one of the most heavily bombed areas in history.
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