Officials late to act on bomb found near Vietnamese schools

By Nguyen Long - Thanh Tin, Thanh Nien News

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Officials late to act on bomb found near Vietnamese schools

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A photo taken in the afternoon of April 17 shows two students in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province stand inside the barricade rope to watch a bomb unearthed two days ago. Photo by Nguyen Long

Curious children spent days gathered around a 1.2 meter bomb, estimated to weigh hundreds of kilograms, in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province after officials unearthed and abandoned it.

The bomb was discovered 200 meters from a primary and secondary school campus during the installation of a telecommunication cable cable on Tuesday morning, after an excavator struck the war-era bomb, exposing its fuse.

The bomb remained exposed to the elements on Thursday afternoon as authorities in the province awaited further instructions from their superiors.

A number of curious students walking home were spotted crossing under the plastic barrier ties to gawk at the bomb with no adult supervision in sight.

Both schools have warned their students to keep away from the bomb, which measures  0.3 meters in diameter.

Nguyen Dinh Huy, principal of the secondary school, said he has been very worried since the bomb was found. “Our school has more than 600 students… When it comes to bombs, we don’t know what will happen.”

The nearby primary school has more than 660 children.

Bui Xuan Vinh, the commune chairman, said he has assigned militiamen to the site to keep people away.

“We have informed the district authorities and their military unit but no one has come down to take care of it,” Vinh said.

He said some thieves could be tempted to dissect the unexploded ordnance (UXO) for scrap metal.

District Chief Pham Kinh Kha, said he is awaiting instructions from the provincial command.

Around 6.6 million hectares (16.3 million acres), or more than a fifth of Vietnam's land area, contains UXO, including bombs, shells and landmines, according to official figures.

About 925,000 hectares are heavily contaminated.

The highest rates of UXO are in the central provinces of Ha Tinh, Nghe An, Quang Binh, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue.

The government estimates that about 800,000 tons of UXO remain, and it will take hundreds of years and billions of dollars to completely get rid of the remaining UXO.

Since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, UXO has killed more than 40,000 people and injured over 60,000.

In 2010, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung approved a national plan for 2010-2025 to reduce UXO and support victims.

According to the Technology Centre for Bomb and Mine Disposal, engineering units from the Vietnamese People's Army clear thousands of hectares of land from UXO every year.

Many international NGOs, including Mines Advisory Group, Clear Path International, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation, have supported Vietnam's UXO clearance efforts with equipment, funding, training courses for Vietnamese explosive ordnance disposal personnel. The groups have also directly participated in clearance activities, it said.

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