Vietnamese boy loses hands in UXO explosion

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Relatives of Phan Van Hieu, 11, who lost two hands in a mine explosion in the central province of Quang Nam's Ai Nghia Town, waiting outside the operating room at Da Nang Hospital Saturday. PHOTO: TUOI TRE

A war-era mine blew up and took both of ayoung boy's hands in the central province of Quang Nam Saturday.

Major Le Nho Tam, deputy head of the Dai Loc District police department, said the incident happened at around 9:30 a.m.

Three boys in Dai Loc's Ai Nghia Town, Phan Van Hieu, 11, Pham Van Phuc and Ngo Van Phu, both 13, found a mine at a local construction site, Tam said.

They were taking explosives out of the mine when it exploded, Tam said.

Hieu lost hands and injured his legs. He suffered body injuries due to mine fragments as well.

Phuc and Phu were also injured, Tam said, without specifying their injuries.

Locals brought the boys to Dai Loc General Hospital, but Hieu was transferred to Da Nang Hospital in the afternoon for further treatment.

According to news reports, the area where Hieu was hurt was a former military base leftover by the US-backed Saigon government. Local military units had recently detonated leftover unexploded ordnance (UXO) there before declaring the area clear and letting people enter it.

Police are investigating the explosion.

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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