By Eric San Juan
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam (efe-epa).- Torrential rains that hit central Vietnam for a month present an added danger for residents: bombs of up to 400 kilograms and unexploded grenades since they were dropped half a century ago by the United States dragged by floods and landslides.
On Oct. 29, Nguyen Thi Ha, a woman from Bac Son village, spotted a large metal cylinder one and a half meters long on the bank of the river where she was fishing with her father.
Living in Quang Tri province, where 83 percent of the soil is infested with explosives, she soon realized it was a bomb and called authorities, who confirmed her claims: it was an MK 82 of 226 kilograms, dropped by the US army about 50 years ago and unearthed by recent torrential rains, which eroded the shoreline.
The bomb squad verified it was safe to take to the detonation center, where they set it off, an almost routine task in a region where the appearance of bombs, mines and war grenades is common.
Hien Ngo, spokesperson for the Norwegian People’s Aid / Project RENEW organization, told EFE that it is “quite frequent” that bombs emerge after heavy rains and floods. Ngo said the four consecutive storms that have devastated the central region with more than 160 deaths and disappeared in the month of October have multiplied the findings and the danger of accidents in an exceptional way.
“From Oct. 27 to Nov. 2, 2020, our teams in Quang Tri Province conducted 25 quick responses to Explosive Ordnance discoveries reported by the local people to the provincial hotline number. As a result, 33 items of Explosive Ordnance had been safely removed and destroyed,” said Ngo, whose organization is also responsible for raising awareness among the population about the risks of manipulating these remains and reselling the metal and support the victims of accidents with these explosives.
Project Renew data covers only Quang Tri province, but bombs have also been found in recent weeks in neighboring provinces, all close to Vietnam’s former demilitarized zone where most of the American bombing occurred. The zone divided former communist North Vietnam from pro-western South Vietnam.
One of the largest appeared in Ha Thinh, a 450-kilogram device found by a farmer and deactivated by the army, while in neighboring Quang Binh, authorities closed last week a section of a national highway to detonate a 300-kilogram bomb unearthed by a landslide.
According to NGO Mines Advisory Group, the bomb fell from the side of a nearby mountain very close to the road and an inhabited area and had to wait eight days to destroy it safely due to its magnetic detonation system, similar to that of an antipersonnel mine.
Although the number of accidents has dropped in recent years thanks to the awareness campaigns of organizations such as Project Renew and Peace Trees Vietnam, the risk continues to exist. This is especially the case for children who can mistake them for toys when they see a piece of metal in the soil or for farmers, who when removing the land for their cultivation can suffer accidents.
The advisory group estimates that 10 percent of the 15.4 million tons of explosives dropped during the war, which ended on Apr. 30, 1975, remained unexploded, making Vietnam the country most affected by explosives contamination in the world. world.
Since the end of the conflict, more than 38,000 Vietnamese have been killed and another 66,000 injured by these abandoned artifacts, according to data from Landmine Monitor. EFE-EPA