Hai Lang District, Quang Tri Province (03-08-2009)
A 42-year-old married man, the father of two children, has suffered major injuries from a piece of explosive ordnance which detonated as the man was attempting to cut it apart and sell it for scrap metal.
Pham Quy Tuan, who was trying to dismantle the device when it blew up, has lost both his hands, and has suffered major burns over much of his body and injuries to his genitals.
Near the back of his house in Hai Tho Commune in Hai Lang District of Quang Tri Province, Tuan was cutting what is believed to be a 60mm mortar when the ordnance exploded on Saturday about noon. Neighbors who rushed to the scene found Tuan severely injured, with major burns on his legs and bleeding wounds to both hands. Yellow pieces of explosive and metal fragments were scattered about.
Rushed to the medical clinic in Hai Lang District for emergency treatment, Tuan was then transferred to the Quang Tri Hospital’s for advanced trauma care. There surgeons said they had to amputate both his hands. Tuan suffered serious injuries to his left foot and his genitals, and severe burns over his body from his feet to his chest.
Presently Tuan is under special treatment and observation in the Trauma and Prosthetics Department of the Quang Tri Hospital in Dong Ha Town.
According to the secretary of the Youth Union in Hai Tho Commune, Tuan’s two older brothers were also killed in an accident in 1992, also triggered by the same activity. The accident is a grim reminder of the risks that some still take to retrieve scrap metal from dangerous ordnance because of the price the metal can bring on the local market. A survey conducted by Project RENEW, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), and UNICEF, of scrap metal collectors in the central region, concluded that nearly all were aware of the risks they faced by engaging in such dangerous activity. However, those who continue to search for and cut apart scrap metal are driven by economic pressures. Poverty is the primary factor that keeps this activity going, despite the tragedies that often ensue, despite increasing public awareness of the danger, and even though the practice is illegal under Vietnamese law.
Since the war in Vietnam ended in 1975, scrap metal collecting has accounted for 34% of all accidents nationwide – more than a third of the 104,000 total number of people who have been killed or injured by unexploded ordnance. The huge amount of UXO still on the ground or just under the surface throughout the central provinces of Vietnam, coupled with poverty, the leading cause of this dangerous occupation, prolong a situation that can only be reversed by strong intervention from Vietnamese authorities, donors, and NGOs.
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