Dong Ha, Quang Tri (23 Jun 2010)
An explosion of wartime ordnance caused major injuries to a local resident of Tan Quang Village in Cam Tuyen Commune last Sunday afternoon. Nguyen Duc Nha, born in 1978, hit an unidentified item of unexploded ordnance while searching for scrap metal using his home-made metal detector on a hillside of pine trees, three kilometers from his home.
The explosion tore the sole of his left foot, crushed his right hand and broke one of his right toes. The blast also damaged his hearing. Nha was when the explosion went off. Despite losing a lot of blood, Nha managed to crawl from the explosion site to the main trail where he used his mobile phone with his left hand to call his home.
One of his brothers rushed to him on a motorbike and brought him to Cam Lo Hospital where Nha was given emergency treatment and his injuries stabilized. He was then transferred to the provincial hospital in Dong Ha for advanced trauma treatment.
Nha’s parents have nine children, three of whom are married. Nha, still single, lives with his parents and six brothers and sisters.
Nha said he was aware of the risk of disturbing ERW. “I see many risk education billboards in my village and I feel scared, but I have no choice,” he said. “Some other people in my village also do this kind of work,” said Nha.
Until he was injured, Nha had been collecting war scrap for five years as a way to help his family, temporarily, he thought. On some days, if he was lucky, he could earn 50,000VND to 100,000VND ($2.50 to $5.00 US dollars). On other days, he got nothing.
Despite a province-wide ERW risk education campaign conducted by local authorities and NGOs including Project RENEW, accidents related to scrap metal collection still occur in Quang Tri Province. Lack of economic opportunities is the main reason local people risk their lives searching for war scrap, a temporary way to earn additional income for their livelihoods.Last March, a 17-year-old boy was killed in Ban Chua Village of Cam Tuyen Commune because of tampering with unexploded cluster munitions while searching for scrap. After the accident, Project RENEW sent an EOD team to assess the situation there and the team found and destroyed there more cluster bombs.
Since Nha is still hospitalized he has been unable to describe the exact location of the accident. A Project RENEW EOD team will interview him later and try to get more information about the exact location, after which they will safely remove any remaining items of ERW in the area.
According to a Project RENEW survey in 2006, collecting scrap metal is one of the four major causes of ERW accidents since the war ended in 1975. Farming, livestock herding, and tampering with ERW are the other main causes of deaths and injuries.