UXO kills 4 in southern Vietnam

TN News

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Vietnam's Corps of Engineers say the explosion that killed four children and injured four others in the Mekong Delta on December 2 came from a mortar shell of the type used by the US military and the South Vietnam regime during the Vietnam War.

Lieutenant Colonel Pham Hong Hung of the Vinh Long Military High Command said the UXO (unexploded ordnance) was a 61-mm mortar shell with an antipersonnel range of up to 30 meters in diameter.

The tragedy occurred around 1 p.m. near the home of Nguyen Van Lot in Vung Liem District's Hieu Nghia Commune, where locals had gathered for the death anniversary of Lot's mother.

The children were playing in the bamboo bush when the mortar shell exploded. It is still unclear what precisely prompted the explosion.

Nguyen Hai Dang, his sister Nguyen Thi Ngoc, Pham Dang Khoa, and Le Minh Thanh, aged 4 to 12, were all killed instantly.

Nguyen Van Truong, Nguyen Van Duy, Nguyen Van Tam, and Ngo Ngoc Phuong, aged 7 to 42, all sustained injuries.

On December 4, Truong was transferred from Can Tho General Hospital to Ho Chi Minh City's Children Hospital 1 due to severe chest injuries.

Truong said that Dang was the first to find the UXO and that he had seen him and other children playing with it.

Lot said he found the mortar shell several years ago when dredging a pond. He left the rusty shell near the bamboo bush thinking it would not explode.

According to the Defense Ministry's Engineer Corps, UXOs are still present in more than one fifth of Vietnam's total area.

Between 1975 and 2000, UXOs were responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people and injured 60,000 others in Vietnam. The nation spends about US$100 million a year on UXO decontamination.

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