Trieu Phong, Quang Tri Province (06 October 2014)
Five adults were seriously injured when a piece of wartime ordnance accidentally exploded at 10 o’clock on Saturday morning at a scrap yard in Village 9, Trieu Van Commune. The explosion occurred as workers were loading scrap materials onto a truck hired by a scrap dealer.
The loading was almost finished when one of the workers lifted a plastic bag that contained assorted pieces of metal. An item of ordnance fell out of the bag, hit the the ground – striking the paved cement loading area – and exploded on impact.
Three men and two women were injured, one of them seriously. Forty-five-year-old Nguyen Thanh Nhan suffered life-threatening injuries with deep cuts in both legs and a large piece of shrapnel which penetrated his abdomen. The other two men, Tran Trien and Phan Van Bi, aged 52 and 38 respectively, suffered minor injuries. Two 43-year-old women, scrap dealer Le Thi Tan Be and scrap yard owner Bui Thi Binh, suffered minor injuries to their arms.
According to a Trieu Van Commune military official who was the first to arrive at the accident scene, all five victims were administered first aid and stabilized by the commune’s health worker, then transported to Quang Tri General Hospital for further treatment.
Military liaison officer Nguyen Van Thanh in Trieu Phong District notified Project RENEW which immediately dispatched an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team to Trieu Van Commune to investigate. The team found that the detonated item was a 90mm projectile fuze. The explosion had sent metal fragments flying in all directions, ripping into the three men and two women.
“We made a thorough check inside the scrap yard and found three more items of explosive remnants that were dangerous,” said RENEW’s National Technical Officer Bui Trong Hong. “These were transported to our Central Demolition Site in Trieu Trach for later destruction.”
Nguyen Thanh Nhan, the most critically injured victim, underwent surgery at Quang Tri General Hospital on Saturday and is now is now in post-op treatment, in stable condition. Doctors say they removed a piece of shrapnel, about three cm long, from his abdomen. His life is no longer in danger but he will need time to fully recover.
The father of four children, Nhan has worked for many years with scrap collectors. “I know UXO is dangerous,” he said, “but I did not know a piece of UXO was inside the bag.” Nhan’s wife, Phan Thi Hoa, said this was the second time her husband has been injured by a UXO explosion. “The first accident was in 1986 when a cluster bomb exploded as Nhan was planting acacia seedlings,” said Hoa.
Having run the small scrap recycling and sales business for almost 20 years, Mrs. Bui Thi Binh understands the risks of UXO. But Saturday’s accident was sudden and unexpected, with no indication or warning. No one knew that the ordnance was mixed in with pieces of scrap metal in the closed bag.
In 2008, Ms. Binh’s family was among 26 families in the scrap business in Quang Tri Province who received from Project RENEW a concrete bin with a heavy lockable lid called a Temporary Bin for Munitions (TBM) or Thùng Bom Mìn. The TBM, recessed into the earth, provided scrap dealers with a safe place to quarantine deadly hazardous UXO from exposure to children and local residents until Project RENEW teams could come on a weekly basis to carry out safe disposal of all items. Since then nearly 4,000 items of UXO have been collected and safely destroyed from scrap metal yards.
The scrap business has been on the decline, and the number of scrap yards still needing support from Project RENEW has dropped from 26 to seven. Still, the risk of being maimed or killed by UXO brought in by scrap metal collectors remains.
The explosion Saturday was a reminder of the importance of maintaining the TBM initiative, coupled with regular retraining of scrap yard owners. Reinforcement of safety and accident prevention messages through Mine Risk Education must continue to be an ongoing priority for all children and adults in Quang Tri Province.
Restoring the Environment and Neutralizing the Effects of the War
Dự án Phục hồi Môi trường và Khắc phục Hậu quả Chiến tranh
Project RENEW Coordination Office
Kids First Village, 185 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Dong Ha City, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam
053 3858 445 tel / 053 3858 442 fax
firstname.lastname@example.org / www.landmines.org.vn
Ngo Xuan Hien, Communications & Development Manager, 0915 352 565 mobile