Hai Lang District, Quang Tri Province (23 April 2019) — Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams managed by Project RENEW and Norwegian People’s Aid (RENEW-NPA) on Tuesday removed a U.S. bomb from an acacia forest near the La Vang Catholic in Hai Lang District, Quang Tri Province after the forest owner made an emergency call to the hotline at the Quang Tri Mine Action Center (QTMAC).
The weapon was discovered by Mr. Nguyen Duc Danh, a tree farmer who lives in Hai Lang Townlet, while he was inspecting his acacia forest last weekend. Terrified when he recognized the danger, Mr. Nhan immediately called the QTMAC’s hotline number to inform the dispatcher that some unidentified scrap scavengers left a big bomb on his acacia forest in Truong Phuoc Village of Hai Lam Commune, about 10 km from the La Vang Catholic Church. Danh urgently asked for quick response to deal with the threat.
Early on Tuesday morning, RENEW-NPA’s EOD teams arrived at the acacia forest and started their investigation. The bomb was identified as an air-dropped 750-pound M117 series filled with 385 pounds of explosive. Because its two fuzes were missing, NPA-RENEW National Technical Officer Bui Trong Hong decided it was safe to allow the EOD team to transport it away from the site for disposal.
At the central demolition site in Trieu Trach Commune, Trieu Phong District, NPA-RENEW EOD teams of NPA-RENEW safely disposed of the M117 bomb, under supervision of National Technical Officer, Col. Hong.
Last November, a RENEW-NPA team destroyed another aerial bomb of the same type after a forest harvester in Xuan Lam Village of Hai Lam called to ask for assistance. The bomb had also been found but then abandoned by scrap metal collectors, who remain unknown. Again in 2016, Gio Linh District police arrested a truck driver and seized three MK82 500-pound bombs he was transporting, and asked RENEW-NPA teams to help dispose of them.
Local authorities and RENEW-NPA deminers are convinced that an underground network of scavengers exists, who illegally search for wartime explosives to sell to mining businesses or fishing fleets, even though trading in explosives is strictly prohibited by Vietnam law. Those who do so are committing a serious crime and can be imprisoned. Because of significant cash income that selling wartime explosives can bring, however, some individuals defy the personal risks and penalties under the law and continue to engage in this dangerous practice.
According to U.S. bombing data, Hai Lam Commune was subject to heavy bombardment during the Vietnam War. From 1965 to 1973, U.S. military forces carried out 2,226 sorties of bombing strikes over Hai Lam Commune, of which 106 missions dropped cluster munitions. Unexploded cluster munitions and other ordnance have killed 135 people and injured 139 others in Hai Lam Commune since the war ended in 1975.
Since 2016, RENEW-NPA has deployed Technical Survey teams in Hai Lam Commune to define and map out contaminated areas that need clearance. As a result, eight areas in Hai Lam covering over 6.6 million square meters have been identified as hazardous, and they will soon be cleared by mine action organizations operating in Quang Tri Province.
Project RENEW was established in 2001 as a joint effort between the government of Quang Tri Province and interested INGOs to “restore the environment and neutralize the effects of the war” – with the main focus on unexploded ordinance.
Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) is one of the leading organizations worldwide in humanitarian disarmament. NPA has worked in Vietnam since 2008 following the signing of an MOU with the government of Quang Tri People’s Committee to support the development of Project RENEW’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) capacity. NPA’s operational footprint now covers all of Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue Provinces, with an increase of assets to four Battle Area Clearance teams, one Non-Technical Survey team, four EOD teams, and 25 Technical Survey teams.