NEWS ROUNDUP October 2014

Oct2014News

22 October, 2014
Laos on track for UXO development goal target


This year Laos may reach its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets to reduce the impact of unexploded ordnance but the human cost remains high, local press reported Wednesday.
According to Director of the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) Phoukhieo Chanthasomboun, the Laos-specific Millennium Development Goal 9 (MDG) has set a target of less than 75 unexploded ordnance (UXO) casualties per year.
“For the first 10 months of this year, the UXO accident rate is in line with the MDG set target but the explosive devices are still blowing up and many adults and children are being killed and injured each month,” Phoukhieo said. More on the story from Xinhua at GlobalPost.

20 October, 2014
ASEAN to strengthen assistance for Lao victims of UXO


Twenty-four officials from the line agencies in charge of social affairs, assistance to victims, and de-mining of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam participated in the workshop. They exchanged ideas and discussed national policies and the best practices to ultimately benefit victims of UXOs and improve their lives, as well as prevent new victims in the future. More from Thai PBS.

16 October, 2014
Artillery shell found in Vietnam pre-school


An Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team from Project RENEW safely removed an artillery shell from a kindergarten in the north-central province of Quang Tri.
Nguyen Thi Hong, the headmistress of the Cam Thanh ward nursery in Cam Lo district called RENEW right after she found the 100-millimeter shell on school grounds. The rest of the short story is at Thanh Nien News.

15 October, 2014
The Families At Risk From Iraq’s Legacy Of Conflict – report & photo gallery


The Kurdish region of northern Iraq is now hosting more than 800,000 displaced Iraqis, including Yazidi, Christian, Shabak, Kakai, Armenian and Turkmen minorities.
The region has suffered from numerous conflicts over many decades and as a result is highly contaminated by the explosive remnants of war: unexploded ordnance (UXO) and landmines. MAG has been working in the region since 1992, clearing the areas most needed by communities to develop and live in safety.
Read more and see the photos at MAG’s website.

14 October, 2014
Recycling in Sudan: Turning bombs into agricultural tools


For over three years, the Sudan government has been leading an intense bombing campaign in South Kordofan. In an area cut off from the rest of the world, local villagers are now recycling the shells to help them grow crops.
Since June 2011, the Sudanese army and rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement of the North (SPLM-N) have been fighting over control of this oil-rich region, which borders South Sudan. In the Nuba Mountains, the army has been blighting the lives of local villagers with a blanket bombing campaign, resulting in dozens of civilian deaths.
With supplies scarce, the locals have used their ingenuity. Read the rest of this remarkable story at France 24.

5 October, 2014
War-era bunker full of unexploded ordnances found in central Vietnam


Construction workers detected a bunker containing a huge amount of war-era unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the north-central province of Quang Tri.
Workers of the Truong Son Construction Corporation under the Ministry of Defense were digging up the soil to clear the site for construction of the Lao Bao International Border Gate in the eponymous town when they detected the bunker.
Inside the bunker they found dozens of artillery shells, mortar shells, hundreds of cluster bombs and other ordnance.
Major Vo Cong Nam, chief supervisor at the construction site, said all the UXOs were produced and left by the US army during the Vietnam War, which ended in 1975. More on the story at Thanh Nien News.

NEWS ROUNDUP September 2014

Sept2014News

30 September, 2014
Let’s not rely on luck when it comes to unexploded bombs


Last month, a 36kg unexploded bomb was discovered in North Point, left by the Japanese at the end of the second world war. The police used 100 sandbags to effect a controlled explosion. Nevertheless, debris was flung 100 metres and it created a three-metre-deep crater. In February, a 900kg American bomb discovered in Happy Valley was successfully defused by the police.
Hong Kong’s struggle in the second world war involved the use of ordnance – aircraft bombs, artillery, grenades and other types of ammunition – manufactured by the British, Japanese, Americans and Chinese. After the war, one of the first jobs for the British on returning to Hong Kong was to clear the harbour of the 50-odd shipwrecks. Resources were not available for a general clearance of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and the efforts made at that time were less than optimal. Read more about Hong Kong’s WWII-era bomb problem at the South China Morning Post.

26 September, 2014
1,000-pound bomb safely detonated in Quang Tri

Exploded Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams from Peace Trees Viet Nam (PTVN) detonated and removed a 1,000-pound (450kg) bomb in the central Quang Tri Province yesterday.
Pham Thi Hoang Ha of PTVN, a non-government organisation that has been searching for unexploded ordnance in Quang Tri since 1995, said the 1.8-metre-long, 35.6-centimentre-diameter bomb, which was classified as an MK83, is believed to have been left behind after the American war. More here.

25 September, 2014
500-kg bomb exposed on riverbank in northern Vietnam

A 500-kg bomb has emerged from the bank of a river in the northern Vietnamese province of Quang Tri after continuous rains in the area, local authorities reported Wednesday.
While patrolling along the bank of the Se Pon River yesterday, border guards found the unexploded ordnance (UXO) lying on the ground nearby, said the Tam Thanh border gate station in Thanh commune, Huong Hoa District. More at Tuoi Tre News.

19 September, 2014
Finding Unexploded Ordnance on the Reef or On Your Way to Work

Sal was walking in to work today when he noticed an encrusted mortar shell lying by the side of the path. Being obviously more aware of his surroundings than I am in the morning, he pulled up short. “How in the heck did that get there?” was his first thought, followed by, “That should NOT be there.”
He did not touch it or move it. He called Jim, our facilities manager, the police came, followed by an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) team. When I walked up, there was a 50 meter perimeter already set up. You can read the rest at Science Island (Hawaii).

September 19, 2014
UXO Drone to find UXO in Laos

Ryan Baker says that Laos is, per capita, the most heavily bombed nation in the world. During the Vietnam war the US flew more than half a million bombing missions and delivered more than two million tons of explosive ordnance.
Baker’s solution is to use his company’s drones to search for these UXOs without putting the drone operators in danger. Arch Aerial is running a Kickstarter campaign to get development funding for a proposed Arch Aerial UXO Drone. See more here and at Kickstarter. (Editor’s note: This is so unlikely on so many levels, but is interesting nonetheless)

September 19, 2014
ANAMA completes mine/UXO clearance operations in Gabala radar station

36 anti-tank, 16 antipersonnel mines and one UXO were found during the operations.
Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) has completed the mine/UXO clearance operations in the territory of Gabala radar station, chief operation manager of ANAMA Samir Poladov told APA. Read more at News.AZ

September 18, 2014
War to Peace – An American 
veteran returns to Vietnam to help make it safer for 
his former enemy

Nearly 40 years on, Chuck Searcy is still fighting the Vietnam War—but now for the other side. It’s a September morning and Searcy, a 69-year-old veteran, is overseeing a team of Vietnamese about to blow up a bomb discovered in a village in the central coastal province of Quang Tri. Because of its proximity to the old DMZ between what was once North and South Vietnam, Quang Tri was subject to relentless bombing by U.S. warships and planes. As a result, the area is infested with unexploded ordnance. You can see the rest at TIME.

September 11, 2014
Suspected unexploded ordnance found near grounded vessel

THE salvage operations to remove the container ship MV Paul Russ from the reef in the Saipan Harbor ran into another roadblock yesterday with the discovery of what appears to be unexploded ordnance.
According to a release issued by Lt. William White of the U.S. Coast Guard, “While conducting dive operations, divers discovered what appears to be unexploded ordnance behind and next to the grounded vessel. All response operations in the vicinity of the vessel have been suspended until the U.S. Navy Explosives Ordnance Division (USN EOD) can assess and safely remove the items.”
More to be read at Marianas Variety.

September 2, 2014
Lao villager’s favorite pastime: detonate unexploded U.S. bombs

While most residents at Vilabouly village in Savannakhet province in Laos are engaged in farming and fishing, Wan’s favorite pastime is defusing bombs left by the Americans during the Indochina war.
Recently Wan defused a 1,000 kilogram U.S. bomb after European experts decided that defusing the unexploded ordnance (UXO) would prove to be too dangerous.
The Shanghai Daily has more of this very curious story.

September 3, 2014
Gwynt y Môr bomb sweep completed

Consultant engineering outfit 6 Alpha Associates has carried out a five-month unexploded ordnance (UXO) project to pave the way for cable installation at RWE’s 576MW Gwynt y Môr wind farm.
The risk management work at the 160-turbine wind farm, in 12–33 metres of water in Liverpool Bay, off the Welsh coast, is final confirmation that the threat to cable installation from UXOs has been reduced to “as low as is reasonably practicable”. More at Recharge News.

NEWS ROUNDUP August 2014

Aug2014News

August 29, 2014
Four children die in explosions

The coordinator of the Sirba camps for displaced people told Radio Dabanga from Manjura in Jebel Moon that Adam Nimeiri Haj (13 years), Abdo Mohamed (12 years), and Haitham Ishag Adam (11 years) were herding goats in the area on Wednesday. They found an unexploded ordnance (UXO), which detonated as they started playing with it, the coordinator explained. They were killed on the spot.
An explosion of a remnant of war on Tuesday killed one child and seriously wounded another in Drankola in Sirba locality. The camp coordinator explained that the incident occurred when the two children were letting their camels graze in the area. “The injured child was transferred to El Geneina hospital for treatment.”
Radio Dabanga has the rest of the story.

August 27, 2014
UXO Casualties Rising

The Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) has recorded a drastic increase in the number of deaths and injuries due to unexploded ordnance and landmines this year compared with 2013, the organisation has said.
Heng Ratana, director-general of CMAC, said yesterday that there had been 101 casualties in the first six months of 2014, compared with about 110 cases in the whole of last year. Read the rest of the story at The Phnom Penh Post.

August 25, 2014
Ho Chi Minh City sappers collect war-era bomb, shell

Sappers on Monday collected a Vietnam War 400 lb bomb and an artillery shell which were found last week in District 9, Ho Chi Minh City.
The bomb was found last Monday when local people were dredging the Mon canal. It measured 1.5 meter in length and 0.4 meters in diameter.
The 105 mm shell, weighing 50 kg, was found in a near by paddy field. See more at Thanh Nien News.

August 22, 2014
Unexploded Israeli ordnance creates more danger for Gazans

The explosion of a device in northern Gaza, while Palestinian experts were attempting to disable it on Aug. 13, led to the death of six individuals, including journalists, one of whom was an Italian reporter working for the Associated Press in the Gaza Strip.
Medhat al-Batash, a technical department official for the explosives engineering unit in Gaza, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Interior, said that the UXOs of the current war are more dangerous than in any previous war.Read more here.

August 16, 2014
Mission imprecision: the unexploded ordnance war

In September of 2006, Haaretz quoted the head of an Israeli Army rocket unit on his military’s performance during the recent 34-day war on Lebanon: “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs.”
As the article explains, the United Nations estimated at the time that approximately 40 percent of cluster rounds fired by Israel had failed to explode. This is why, despite intensive and ongoing cleanup efforts by Lebanese and international organisations, we still continue to see headlines like: “18-year-old Lebanese killed by Israeli cluster bomb.”
The rest of the story is at Mideast Eye.

August 15, 2014
Couple fear for their lives as diggers move onto Killingworth field which may harbour unexploded bombs

A couple say they were left fearing for their lives after a digger began working in a field next door which could contain dozens of unexploded bombs.
Steve and Joanne Pattison, who live on the eastern edge of Killingworth Village, raised the alarm with police and North Tyneside District Council as they watched consultants for Bellway Homes carry out preliminary work at the Killingworth Stores site
But the house builder, which has applied for permission to construct 127 homes on the land, said the area was low risk and their consultant was carrying out minor channelling work to prove it.
ChronicleLive (UK) has more.

August 14, 2014
UXO blast kills two in central Vietnam

Two men were killed while trying to extract explosives from an unidentified item of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the central province of Phu Yen on Wednesday.
The incident happened at around 9 a.m. when Vo Thang, 41, and Nguyen Tan An, 25, of Son Hoa District used a saw to cut the ordnance.
Local residents said they heard an explosion near a house of a park ranger in Son Hoi Hamlet which is located near the Da Chat Forest. Rushing to the site, they found the body parts of the duo.
The rest of the story is at Thanh Nien News.

August 14, 2014
In Pictures: Funeral of Gazan translator killed by Israeli UXO

Relatives and friends mourn over the body of Ali Shehada Abu Afash, a translator working with The Associated Press, during his funeral in Gaza City on 13 August.
Afash was killed in an ordnance explosion in the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday, together with Associated Press video-journalist Simone Camilli and three members of the Gaza police. Police said four other people were seriously injured, including AP photographer Hatem Moussa. See the photos at Mideast Eye.

August 13, 2014
Tragic deaths in Gaza are a reminder of a world full of unexploded bombs

An Italian videojournalist with the Associated Press, his interpreter and four Palestinians were killed in a string of explosions at an ordnance dump in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. As The Washington Post’s William Booth reports, Simone Camilli and Ali Shehda Abu Afash were filming a crew of Gazan police tasked with defusing the collected munitions. The assignment, for all involved, took a deadly, tragic turn.
Unexploded ordnance, the remnants of cluster bombs and fizzled rockets, have long been a danger in the Gaza Strip, which has endured repeated offensives by Israel over the past half decade. Six months after the end of Israel’s 2008-9 Operation Cast Lead, the United Nations reported that at least 12 civilians, including six children, had been killed during incidents related to unexploded ordnance, which the U.N. labels “UXO.”
The Washington Post has the rest of the story.

August 6, 2014
UXO Tour brings foreigners face to face with bombing devastation in Quang Tri

A group of backpackers panned their cameras across a remote commune in Quang Tri Province, clicking away, then turned to do the same to a pile of sandbags placed over a soon-to-be detonated piece of war-era ordnance.
Soon the group was whisked away to watch the climactic explosion set off by a foreign-funded de-mining team.
The Quang Tri UXO Tour has run for two years now as a partnership between the Norwegian-funded project RENEW and the Vietnam Backpackers Hostels, which now operates three hostels in Hanoi and Hue. Read the rest at Thanh Nien News.

August 3, 2014
World War One Shells Still Deadly and Dangerous

Artillery shells fired off in World War One and Two are still deadly. Detonation experts say shells from World War One along the French countryside could still explode — even one hundred years later.
As the Anniversary of the start of World War One is being remembered, there is a legacy from the war that lingers on even now.
Bomb clearance specialist Guy Momper states, “If you have a million shells falling — besides all those that fell after — the soil’s upheaval necessarily buried a large part of those which did not explode.” See more at the Net News Ledger.

August 1, 2014
Unexploded ordnance: Don’t touch it, report it

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – The 20th CBRNE Command’s senior enlisted leader has seen it: an unpinned hand grenade in a garage, practice bombs in a basement and an armed landmine on a mantle.
Command Sgt. Maj. Harold E. Dunn IV from 20th CBRNE Command (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives) said unexploded ordnance (UXO) is not only found on military proving grounds, training ranges and battlefields but also in residential, commercial and recreational areas.
Dunn said UXO can be found just about anywhere.
Read more at DVIDS.

August 1, 2014
Laos’ hard work reduces number of UXO victims

Great efforts made by the Lao Government together with international support have helped reduced the number of victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the country to just 56 last year from the previous 300 each year.
The positive result was reported at a ceremony in Vientiane on August 1 to mark the 4th anniversary of the Convention on Cluster Munitions taking effect.
Chairman of the Lao National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action Sector and Minister to the Government Office Bounheuang Douangphachanh also revealed that during 10 months from September 2013 to June this year, relevant forces in the country removed more than 72,000 items of UXO, including nearly 44,000 cluster bombs. More to read at talkvietnam.com.

NEWS ROUNDUP July 2014

July2014News

July 31, 2014
Boaters urged to exercise caution


Garrison Petawawa has deployed marker buoys, like this one, to warn boaters of prohibited areas on the Ottawa River (Canada). While beaches have been cleared of unexploded ordnance, officials warn of possible encounters with unexploded munitions not yet recovered.
Ottawa River beaches stretching along the garrison’s eastern border have been cleared, officials are reminding boaters of possible encounters with unexploded munitions. More in the (Ottawa) Daily Observer.

July 31, 2014
Concerns over a ‘ticking time bomb’ in estate

Fears have been raised over a ‘ticking time bomb’ hidden underground on a site proposed for 127 new homes. Residents have been left horrified after it was revealed there is a ‘risk’ of unexploded munitions on a former military site at Killingworth Moor (England).
Campaigners against plans for housing on the site have criticised developers Bellway Homes for continuing with the plans and not informing residents. An unexploded ordnance (UXO) report, produced by consultants as part of Bellway’s first phase for developing homes on the site, says all anomalies should be excavated and investigated. More at the News Guardian.

July 25, 2014
UXO kills one in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra

Sara Yagoub Eisa was killed by a detonating grenade in the area of Mashrou Abu Zeid, East Jebel Marra, on Tuesday afternoon.
One of her relatives told Radio Dabanga that when she was ploughing her farmland with her donkey, she hit a grenade. The bomb detonated, killing Eisa and the donkey instantly. Story from Radio Dabanga.

July 21, 2014
Cambodian Peacekeepers in Mali injured by UXO blast

Two Cambodian United Nations peacekeepers in Mali were injured after their car ran over an anti-personnel landmine on Friday.
Driver Sim Veoun’s leg was broken in the blast, while the other wounded peacekeeper, Chan Saveoun, was slightly injured, according to Ouk Bunthan, deputy director of the mines and explosive war remnants clearance department at the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces. The Phnom Penh Post has the rest of the story.

July 18, 2014
Vietnamese teens find large cache of cluster bombs, rockets

Two Vietnamese teenagers led technicians to a large cache of unexploded ordnance buried in a coastal forest, a legacy from U.S. military intervention in the country. The boys reported their discovery after hearing the sounds of controlled detonations of old bombs made by technicians with Project Renew, an organization based in Vietnam’s Quang Tri Province. You can read more in Stars and Stripes.

July 18, 2014
Treasure hunter finds WWII ordnance on Tumon Bay (Guam)

Parts of Tumon Bay were evacuated this afternoon after one man’s hunt for treasure uncovered something more.
Thirty feet from the shore of Reef Hotel, a local man and his metal detector uncovered a reminder from the island’s past. “There was a person in the water with a metal detector and they found a five inch US naval projectile that’s armed,” Navy EOD Senior Chief Petty Officer Brian Fitzgerald. Just in time for Guam’s 70th Liberation Day celebrations, Senior Chief Fitzgerald says the projectile dates back to World War II. See more at KUAM News.

July 17, 2014
Congressman Honda Awarded For His Work on Unexploded Ordnance

Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA17) was honored Tuesday night by the not-for-profitorganization Legacies of War for his work in raising awareness about, and securing finds to remove, Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) in Laos. The award was presented at Legacies of War 10th Anniversary Event at the District Architecture Center in Washington, DC. Read more at Congressman Honda’s website.

July 16, 2014
Rocket goes off: Explosion in Pursat hurts eight people

An old rocket seriously injured at least eight people when it exploded in Pursat province yesterday, after a child found the missile and used it as a toy with a relative in his village.
Three women, three men and two children – all related – are being treated at the provincial hospital after the child took the unexploded ordnance (UXO) to the family’s Stung Thmey village home. More at The Phnom Penh Post.

July 11, 2014
Casualties from UXO accelerate in Cambodia

Casualties from mines and unexploded ordnance are on track to outpace last year’s count, according to new government data.
In the first five months of this year, 89 people were either killed or injured by the deadly remnants of war, Cambodian Mine Action Centre director-general Heng Ratana said yesterday. The centre’s tally for the whole of 2013 is 111. The Phnom Penh Post has more.

July 10, 2014
Vietnam War legacy lives on in unexploded bombs


A demining team carefully removed a pile of rusty explosives – each one still able to kill or maim – from a quiet ploughed field where fierce fighting once raged in the Vietnam War.
Shortly after the lethal mortars and grenade launcher rounds were taken away, an anxious farmer in her 50s marched over to the team during their recent mission.
The farmer, Van Thi Nga, stumbled across the relics while growing vegetables, the main source of income in her village that sits along the war’s former demarcation zone and is strewn with hidden explosives. More at Asian Correspondent.

July 8, 2014
When the idea of a bomb-free Laos became possible: An interview with Channapha Khamvongsa

It started with hand drawings from survivors. Black bombies littering the sky. Red markings everywhere. Farmers running across the green fields. These drawings would be the start of what would lead to learning about a lost history and one woman’s passion to advocate what many thought would be the impossible: a bomb-free Laos. Read more about Channapha Khamvongsa at the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

July 8, 2014
ANAMA to complete mine clearance operations along frontline within 3 years

Azerbaijan will complete mine and UXO clearing operations in the areas along frontline within 3 years, Director of Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) Nazim Ismayilov told journalists, APA reports. You can read a little bit more at APA.
Ismayilov said that the Agency is carrying out operations in the liberated areas, as well as in the training ranges and military bases exploded by the Soviet Army.

July 7, 2014
‘South Kordofan littered with unexploded ordnance’: SPLM-N

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) has warned for a catastrophe in South Kordofan, as the number of land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the region has increased significantly during the past months of bombing and shelling by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF).
The SPLM-N governor of the areas under rebel control in South Kordofan, Simon Kalu, stressed in a statement on Saturday that the lives of thousands of civilians are in great danger if international organisations will not intervene and remove the UXO. “During the past few months, the Sudanese Air Force dropped hundreds of bombs on the region. Many of them did not explode.” More at the ever-busy Radio Dabanga.

July 7, 2014 Canada: Beware Of UXO – They’re Out There!

We recently acted for the owner/operator of a scrap yard, who decided to shut down its business after more than 50 years in operation and sell their property to a developer. As would be expected, the purchase agreement required the vendor to remove the scrap metal stored on the site prior to closing. On the day before closing, while the crane operator was picking up the remaining scrap at the far corner of the property and dumping it in a truck to be hauled away, he came upon what appeared to be a large cache of shells and other munitions. Read the rest of this UXO story from Canada at Mondaq.

July 2, 2014 Fungi farming brings safe money to bomb-addled Quang Tri

Ever since the war, Quang Tri Province’s poor have made a dangerous living selling the unexploded remains of the US’s mammoth bombing campaign, but a new program gives them a safer option – planting fungi. “Growing mushrooms suits the disabled victims of bombs – those with disabilities and poor health,” said Do Thien Dang who lost his legs in an accident caused by unexploded ordnance (UXO). See the rest of the story at Thanh Nien News.

June 9, 1964: The day the first US bombs fell on Laos

Fifty years ago today, on June 9, 1964, the first American bombs fell on Laos, in what would become the largest bombing campaign in history.

The Unites States had been flying reconnaissance missions across Northern Laos in support of Royalist Lao forces fighting a communist insurgency backed by North Vietnam. On June 8th, anti-aircraft batteries near the Plain of Jars shot down an American reconnaissance plane. On June 9th, eight F-100 fighters dropped bombs on those positions, on the orders of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Those were the first of millions of bombs to be dropped over the next nine years.

There is no day of remembrance in Laos for June 9. It is mentioned only in passing in The United States Air Force In Southeast Asia 1961-1973, published by the Office of Air Force History (page 122). But the legacy of that day will be felt in Laos for decades to come.

Below, an excerpt from Eternal Harvest.

 

A boy digs for ant larvae to use in soup on a hillside overlooking the Plain of Jars.
A boy digs for ant larvae to use in soup on a hillside overlooking the Plain of Jars.

A boy stands on a barren hillside, his body a silhouette against blue sky. He’s poised at an angle, aligned with the slope of the hill. He has a shovel and a basket—his tools—as he stabs the earth, looking for ant eggs to use as fishing bait. He lifts the shovel and drives it into the soil. The boy knows about UXO. He knows the ground could explode beneath him. He knows this land is contaminated with bombs that were dropped before he was born. But still, he pumps his shovel.

We meet this boy while hiking with our guide, Manophet, between sites along the Plain of Jars. The young boy keeps flinging dirt. Manophet goes to him and demonstrates a safer way to dig, slowly and softly. He instructs the boy to stop if he hits something hard.

But the boy shrugs off the advice. “I’ve done it many times,” he says. And he goes on digging.

We continue on. Manophet looks weary. He talks of the years he spent working for MAG, looking for UXO. He’s lost friends and neighbors to accidents. He has seen human bodies torn to shreds. Digging for any reason exacerbates the risk of an accident, yet people do it. It’s not because they don’t understand the dangers. It’s because the dangers never go away.

Bombs are a natural part of life in much of Laos, and risk has become routine. Fifty years after the first bombs fell, many Laotians realize they may always have to live on contaminated land. When a hazard is so pervasive for so long, its presence enters the subconscious. It’s impossible to live for decades in active, constant fear. “In daily life, you just have to go on,” says a Xieng Khouang man named Phou Vieng who lost a leg and an arm while digging in the floor of his house. Of course he knew the risks, he says. “Some days we just forgot it could happen.”

People adapt—they must. And people take chances—sometimes by choice, sometimes necessity. There are prospects in the ground. All across Laos, locals turn bits and bobs of old U.S. bombs into useful everyday tools: pails and lanterns, barns and huts, ashtrays and homes. Bomb canisters are stacked into fences and formed into feed troughs. Bomb scrap is melted down and shaped into bowls and spoons. Hunks of high-grade steel are molded into knives and machetes. Lightweight aluminum tubes that once held dozens of bombies now form the legs of sturdy ladders. Defused bomblets serve as lamps, and buckets bear labels naming the precise U.S. armory location and date on which they began life as flare canisters. On some rivers, fishermen float in boats made from the fuel tanks dropped by American pilots. And around many rural homes, vegetables grow in bomb casings.

A woman waters her herb garden, planted in a cluster bomb casing and raised on stilts in Boualapha town, Khammouane Province.
A woman waters her herb garden, planted in a cluster bomb casing and raised on stilts in Boualapha town, Khammouane Province.

We meet a woman on the roadside in Khammouane province as she waters a thick clump of scallions growing in a bomb canister propped up on a couple of old, dead tree trunks. “Oh, this came from the airplane,” she says. “My parents had this a long time.” It works much better than wood. “This is the best planter.”

One small Xieng Khouang community called Ban Naphia, near the Plain of Jars, has made an industry out of scrap. Every day, locals forge hundreds of spoons from the detritus of war. Earthen ovens sit behind many of the homes. Villagers fire them hot and strong, powerful enough to turn an aluminum section of flare canister—with U.S. label still attached—into a dribble of shimmering liquid. It is poured into spoon-shaped molds encased in wood. The liquid cools, and in just a few minutes, a spoon emerges.

Spoons
A young woman makes spoons from aluminum war scrap in a shop behind her home in Ban Naphia, Xieng Khouang Province.

Ban Naphia produces about 150,000 spoons each year, using aluminum from flares, fuses, bomb fins, and fighter jet parts. It is an inherently risky enterprise, and MAG is working with villagers to make their jobs safer. According to MAG documents, “Several people from Ban Naphia have been injured by UXO over recent years.”

Still, the drive to dig is often stronger than the will to resist potential income. In the city, Laotians earn on average a few dollars a day. In the countryside, incomes lag far behind. By trading in scrap, farmers can reap a different type of harvest. The price goes up and down, and it varies depending on location, quality of metal, and a person’s position in the scrap trade. Many villagers quote a price near seven cents a pound—plenty good enough for them to hit the fields with shovels, spades, or detectors….

NEWS ROUNDUP June 2014

June2014News

June 27, 2014
Vietnam War-era bomb found, defused in Laos capital

Laos authorities defused a 500-pound MK82 bomb from the Vietnam War found on the outskirts of the capital this week, the Vientiane Times reported. Read the rest at The Nation.

June 26, 2014
IDPs face landmine and UXO threat

IDPs are particularly vulnerable to the landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) littering the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, as they’re in unfamiliar territory. There is a little bit more to read over on the site of Guardian Witness.

June 24, 2014
Unexploded Ordnance in Darfur

In East Jebel Marra, eight cows were killed, and three others injured when an unexploded ordnance (UXO) detonated 2km west of Dalma Dalma village. A little bit more over at Radio Dabanga.

June 20, 2014
Unexploded Ordnance Found on Fort Riley (Kansas)

Since the ordnance could not be identified, Fort Riley officials temporarily evacuated about 60 residences in the area. The ordnance was removed and transported to a safe location for proper disposal. From the Hays Post.

June 15, 2014 Boys lose hands, legs as UXO detonates in North Darfur

Three boys were maimed in the area of Jebel Karo, North Darfur, on Friday when a grenade they found detonated. “Murtada Ibrahim Bakhit (16), his brother Abdel Bagi (11), and Abdel Hamid Suleiman Mousa (12) on Friday found a grenade in the area of Jebel Karo, about 20km south of Tawila town”, Omda Mousa Mukhtar Bush told Radio Dabanga. “When they started to play with it, the grenade detonated. The legs of Abdel Bagi were blown off. Murtada and Abdel Hamid lost their hands.” Radio Dabanga has the full story.

June 10, 2014 Dicing with death in the dark

IMAGINE you are diving in a muddy river with virtually zero visibility. Then imagine your objective is to find unexploded landmines. Mandurah Detective-Sergeant Tony Langer has experienced this many times. Read his story on the Australian site In My Community. In 2008, Sgt Langer watched an episode of Australian Story on the ABC that led him to help with the clearing of landmines from Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Read the rest of the story at the Australian site In My Community.

June 9, 2014 This farmer can now work safely on his land for the first time in 40 years

“There were bombies [the local term for cluster submunitions] everywhere.” Fifty-nine year old Sithon Manyvong recalls returning home to Naphia in 1975 after the Vietnam War had ended. “Because there were no UXO clearance organisations at that time, we villagers had to move the bombies ourselves,” Sithon says. “We piled them up and covered them with firewood to burn them… and what did not explode we buried in the soil.” Read more from MAG at Thomson-Reuters.

June 6, 2014 Battambang pagoda’s pond held deadly UXO cache

Five unexploded ordnance (UXO) and 80 bullets were dug out from the drained pond of a Battambang pagoda yesterday. Authorities in Sangke district’s Anlong Vil commune spotted the devices on Wednesday, and deminers from the Cambodian Mine Action Centre yesterday dug through the emptied pond to find two anti-tank mines, a 60mm mortar, two DK-82 mortars and 80 MP5K bullets. More at The Phnom Penh Post.

June 4, 2014 Nine Vietnam War-era bombs cleared from Laos-Vietnam rail link

Bomb clearance teams working on a 220-kilometrerail line in southern Laos have found nine unexploded devices along the route, a news report said. A hundred ordnance clearers were deployed along the 5-billion-dollar Savannakhet-Laobao railroad, which will link north-east Thailand to central Vietnam, the Vientiane Times reported. The Thailand-based Nation Online has more.

June 3, 2014 Fungi farming brings safe money to bomb-addled Quang Tri

Ever since the war, Quang Tri Province’s poor have made a dangerous living selling the unexploded remains of the US’s mammoth bombing campaign, but a new program gives them a safer option – planting fungi. “Growing mushrooms suits the disabled victims of bombs – those with disabilities and poor health,” said Do Thien Dang who lost his legs in an accident caused by unexploded ordnance (UXO). More at Thanh Nien News.

June 2, 2014 Three North Darfur children maimed by grenade

Three boys were maimed when a grenade they found and played with detonated in the area of Ba’ashim in North Darfur on Sunday. Apart from losing their hands, the boys sustained face, shoulder and leg injuries, a relative of one of the boys told Radio Dabanga. He said that he fears the boys may bleed to death, as there is no health centre in the neighbourhood. “The nearest hospital is in Mellit town, tens of kilometres away.” Read more on the story at Radio Dabanga.

June 2, 2014 Bomb blast kills two in southern Vietnam

Two men were killed on Sunday while trying to extract explosive from a Vietnam War era unexploded bomb they found near their home in the southern province of Dong Nai. They reportedly decided to extract explosives by sawing the bomb open. Their relatives and neighbors said they found Hung’s body in the kitchen pierced by many shrapnels. Meanwhile, parts of Minh’s body were found in the backyard, they said. More of the story at Thanh Nien News.

NEWS ROUNDUP May 2014

May2014News

May 28, 2014
Vietnam eager to spur wide-ranging cooperation with US on UXO and other issues

(Among other things,) In addition, Dung asked the US to increase cooperation and provide more support for Vietnam to help it deal with post-war consequences of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) as well as Agent Orange (AO), adding that Vietnam is ready to cooperate with the US in ecological environment protection. Read the full diplomatic story at Vietnam Net.

May 26, 2014
One Dead, 5 Hurt in Kompong Thom, Cambodia, UXO Blast

An elderly woman was killed and five others injured by an old B-40 rocket that exploded in Kompong Thom province on Friday when one of the victims attempted to dismantle it for scrap metal, according to local officials.
Sim Tam, 78, who was sitting near the rocket when it exploded, was hit with shrapnel from the device and died from her wounds on the way to the local hospital, said Brigadier General Hang Thol, provincial military police commander. Read more about Cambodia’s UXO problem at The Cambodia Daily and The Phnom Penh Post.

May 26, 2014
For Vietnam, leftover American bombs mean the war has never ended

Nguyen Van Thi is a farmer, not a soldier, but with his missing limbs and severe burn scars, he epitomizes the brutal and ongoing aftermath of the Vietnam War.
Thi, 45, found a small explosive while tending to his crops back in 1999. Not knowing what it was, he picked up the device, brushed off the dirt and tapped it with his hoe.
It blew off his left hand. GlobalPost has the rest of the story.

May 25, 2014
Civilian Landmine Team Deploys to Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina To Support Local Efforts in Landmine-Contaminated Areas Affected by Widespread Flooding

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs’ Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement is deploying the Quick Reaction Force (QRF), a group of civilian explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) experts, to Serbia, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The QRF will arrive May 26 and work with local officials of both the Serbian and BiH Mine Action Centers to survey landmine-contaminated areas affected by the recent widespread floods.
Heavy rains in the Balkans have caused widespread flooding that has led to the possible shifting and uncovering of some of the 120,000 landmines remaining from the 1992-1995 conflict associated with the break-up of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The flood waters also may have washed away many of the markers delineating the minefields. Read more at the Imperial Valley News.

May 13, 2014
Military destroys over 300 war-era bomblets in central Vietnam

More than 300 unexploded bomblets from a Vietnam War-era cluster bomb were collected and destroyed in the central province of Nghe An, VnExpress reported.
The site quoted Quynh Luu District’s military headquarters as saying that the bomblets were spread out over roughly 100 square meters in Quynh Thang Commune.
Local agencies say that the unexploded 50mm bomblets came from a cluster bomb that the US military dropped during the Vietnam War. From Thanh Nien News.

May 12, 2014
Disabled ambassador works to inspire UXO victims in Vietnam

A farmer in central Vietnam who lost his hand in a bomb explosion almost four decades ago is now an international ambassador working to raise awareness of the consequences of explosive remnants.
Pham Quy Thi, 59, is informally called the ‘one handed ambassador’ and has travelled to 30 nations around the world to give lectures and raise awareness in communities of the consequences of explosives left from the U.S. war in Vietnam. Get the rest at Tuoi Tre News.

May 6, 2014
Azerbaijan establishes special group for searching and disarming underwater mines

Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) will establish a special group for searching and disarming underwater mines and unexploded ordinances (UXO), chief operation expert of ANAMA Adil Aslanov told APA.
Aslanov said that mines and UXOs are regularly found in water basins, lakes and canals in Azerbaijan. Read more at APA.

May 6, 2014
NGOs continue to push UXO clearance in Quang Tri

Quang Tri Province in Vietnam’s central region is green again thanks to international NGOs who have made a tremendous push toward clearing war-era bombs and mines in recent years.
There’s still a long way to go, however.
Around 400,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) are believed to remain buried across 480,000 hectares of land in Quang Tri.
UXO can be found in residential areas, gardens and even under the floors of houses. See more of the story at Thanh Nien News.

May 5, 2014
Due South Brewing Company UXO American Strong Ale

The UXO pays homage to the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Technicians that have served in the US Military and “UXO is a term EOD Techs use meaning unexploded ordnance”. Due South founder and head brewer, Mike Halker, is a former EOD Tech himself and a portion of the proceeds will go to the EOD Warrior Foundation. Drink the full story in at Wine Compass.

May 2, 2014
Shoebury: Unexploded Bombs Close Beach

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has decided to temporarily close Shoebury East Beach.
The decision, taken in consultation with the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), has been made after a number of recent discoveries of unexploded ordnance (UXO) on and near to East Beach and on neighbouring prohibited MOD foreshore.
Whilst the beach is closed, the MOD, who own the foreshore but license it to the council, are carrying out a survey of the area to assess the exact risk and potential number of UXO’s in that area. More on the news from Great Britain at heart.co.uk

May 1, 2014
Grenade kills two in Darfur’s Jebel Marra

Two girls were killed when a grenade detonated in Jebel Marra on Thursday.
One of the relatives of the girls told Radio Dabanga that Asma Ishag Adam (7) and Najwa Eisa Yahya (6) found the grenade this afternoon in the area of Dirbat.
“They picked it up and started playing with it, upon which the grenade exploded. They were killed instantly.” More at Radio Dabanga.

April 29: From MAG – The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos

Screen shot of the MAG website
Screen shot of the MAG website

MAG America did a nice interview with us about Eternal Harvest that went out in their blog and newsletter. You can learn about how we began this project, what our thinking was as we continued it and how we were treated by the Lao people (hint: very well). Thanks to Patricia Loria at MAG for working around our harried travel and reporting schedule to interview us via Skype from Battambang, Cambodia.

By the way, MAG stands for Mines Advisory Group, and it is one of the world’s largest humanitarian UXO clearance groups.

 

April 15: Noi’s life with bombs

Karen writes for Chime for Change about Noi, a woman we met in Phongsali Province, Laos, in 2010.

Noi points to where her family house used to be in Sophoon before it was destroyed in a US bombing raid in 1964.
Noi points to where her family house used to be in Sophoon before it was destroyed in a US bombing raid in 1964.

I sit with Noi and her sister, Awn, as the two ebullient women tell me about the war. “I still remember,” Noi says. “I was young. The bombs, the fighting. The airplanes.” It was 1964 when a big bomb hit her house. “After that: smoke around me. I didn’t know where to go. There was no one to pick me up. My friend’s father shouted, ‘Noi, Noi, are you dead?’ I heard him, but all around, the houses were burning.” An American bomb had set several homes ablaze and sent shrapnel flying in every direction.

You can read the rest here, at the Chime for Change site.

April 10: On LBJ’s Lao legacy

Sou Lin Phan poses next to a large dud bomb in the middle of his village. Over several years in the late 60s and early 70s, the US dropped 4 billion pounds of explosives on northern Laos in a futile effort to stop North Vietnamese soldiers from using the area as a base and transshipment line to South Vietnam.  As much as 30 percent of the bombs dropped did not explode and they can be seen around the countryside today. They also pose a continuing threat to life.
Sou Lin Phan poses next to a large dud bomb in the middle of his village. Over several years in the late 60s and early 70s, the US dropped 4 billion pounds of explosives on northern Laos in a futile effort to stop North Vietnamese soldiers from using the area as a base and transshipment line to South Vietnam.
As much as 30 percent of the bombs dropped did not explode and they can be seen around the countryside today. They also pose a continuing threat to life.

The family of Lyndon B. Johnson thinks that the long, dark shadow of the war in Vietnam has shrouded his positive achievements here in the US. And, this year, they want to try to rectify that imbalance. That’s a fine idea, as long as they also note another signature, yet greatly overlooked achievement of his: he began the bombing in Laos.

Karen wrote about this for al Jazeera America, and asked the Johnson family to remember all that has been forgotten from the era – the good, the bad, and the ugly.