Scrap collector loses hand to war-era bomb

TN News

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The decade-long American bombardment of Vietnam claimed another casualty this week, one of over 100,000 injuries and deaths caused by unexploded ordnance here in the nearly 40 years since the war's end.

A man in the north-central province of Quang Tri was seriously injured Monday (October 29) while trying to cut open an unexploded Vietnam War-era cluster bomb for scrap metal.

At around 5 p.m. Bui Manh Thang, 67, of Trieu Ai Commune, Trieu Phong District, was trying to remove the explosives from the bomb in order to sell the rest as building metal. The explosives blew up and caused another piece of ordnance nearby to detonate.

The explosion shocked residents of Nai Cuu Phuong Village, who rushed to Thang's house and found him seriously wounded on the front porch.

Thang was rushed to Quang Tri Hospital where surgeons had to amputate his right hand. He also suffered severe injuries to his left hand, neck, jawbone, left knee and both feet.

According to Vo Phuong, a Nai Cuu Phuong local, Thang had been collecting scrap metal for years.

Much of the scrap metal found in Quang Tri is leftover war munitions. Central Vietnam was the most heavily bombed part of the country during the Vietnam War.

Phuong said that Thang's grandchildren often played in the house while their parents were at work and their grandfather dismantled unexploded ordnance (UXO). Fortunately, the children were at school when the accident happened.

Following the accident, officers from Project RENEW (Restoring the Environment and Neutralizing the Effects of the War) visited Thang's house Tuesday and found more than 100 pieces of UXO scattered in front of the house and in the garden.

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Project RENEW said the team would make sure all remaining UXO are removed for safe disposal.

Since the war in Vietnam ended in 1975, scrap metal collecting has accounted for 34 percent of the 104,000 total deaths and injuries due to unexploded war ordnance, according to Project RENEW.

Crippling poverty has forced many farmers in central Vietnam to seek out the abundant war-era scrap metal scattered throughout the hills, forests and jungles.

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