NEWS ROUNDUP February 2015

2015 Feb

February 25
UXO Casualties Highlighted on Mine Awareness Day


In a statement released Tuesday to mark Cambodia’s 16th National Mine Awareness Day, Prime Minister Hun Sen warns all Cambodians to be vigilant of an increase in anti-tank mine casualties.
“Mines and UXOs left by the legacy of the Indochina war and internal conflict in Cambodia for three decades not only caused serious tragedy for our people’s lives but also created obstacles to restoring and developing families’ livelihoods,” the statement says. A little more from Cambodia here.

February 24, 2015
Australian fisherman reels in German WWI grenade


Unusual Find – About 2am this morning, Tuesday 24 February 2015, a man fishing off the Applecross Jetty pulled in what appeared to be an unexploded ordnance. Police attended and cordoned off the area and advised the Bomb Response Unit. A little bit more on this odd story from the UPI here.

February 11, 2015
Clearance group finds bombies in southern Laos


The UXO clearance team sponsored by the NGO We Help War Victims found cluster bomblets on a hillside in Laos. Jim Harris, founder of WHWV – and a main character in the book Eternal Harvest – explains why these particular pieces of ordnance have been associated with child fatalities. Do watch the video and see what clearance work looks like: Bombies on Hillside.

February 11, 2015
Borno (Nigeria):147 Unexploded Bombs Recovered


Borno State police command said it recovered 147 cluster bombs in Auno village of Kondunga local government area of the state.
A police commissioner said a combined team of bomb disposal unit, policemen and troops sighted the explosives, recovered and destroyed them in good time without any injury or damage to lives or property. There is a little more on this mysterious story at the National Mirror Online.

February 8, 2015
Unexploded Ordnance Kills Three Herders in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra

Three herders were killed when a piece of unexploded ordnance (UXO) detonated in East Jebel Marra today. A listener told Dabanga that Hamdan Eisa Sa’adallah, Jaber Ahmed Saleh, and Bahreldin Yagoun Hamed were killed, together with five of their camels, in the area of from Saouda, when the explosion occurred*.
He said that the blast was very strong, and “could be heard from far away”. There is just a bit more on this sadly common story from Darfur at All Africa.

February 6, 2015
UXO death: Man killed, wife injured by landmine

An unexploded landmine in Tbong Khmum province’s Memot district killed a man digging soil about a kilometre away from his home in Choam Kravien commune’s Thmor Tadok village yesterday morning.
The explosion killed Chan Y, 33, and injured his wife, Ak Sophat, 24, who was also there at the time, said Den Rithy, Choam Kravien commune police chief. Sophat suffered a slight injury to her hips, he added. To read more from Cambodia’s latest province, check out the Phnom Penh Post.

February 4, 2015
Viengxay caves, Laos: where thousands hid from American bombs

In its attempt to stop the communists in Northern Vietnam and Laos gaining ground, the US dropped more bombs on Laos between 1964-73 than has happened anywhere else on earth.
At the beginning of the onslaught just over 50 years ago, Kaysone Phomvihane, head of the Laos communist movement, led his politburo to shelter in what became known as the ‘City of Victory’, hidden in craggy mountains near the Vietnam border.
Today, it is hard to imagine sleepy Viengxay, with its lakes, ladies who lunch and manicured floral borders, under constant bombardment. The rest of this (somewhat incomplete) travel story is over at The Telegraph.

February 2, 2015
Unexploded ordinance a hazard to offshore construction says consultancy

Developers, utilities and asset owners are failing to take account of the risks posed by munitions moving from their recorded positions during the operations and maintenance phases of their projects. That is according to specialist offshore risk consultancy, 6 Alpha Associates.
Prior to installation work, where there is a high risk of encountering unexploded ordnance (UXO), it is common to undertake a specialist geophysical survey to detect it. Unfortunately, the seabed is often littered with debris, much of which can be confused with UXO. The costs of investigating each and every geophysical survey anomaly that resembles UXO (some of which might be, but the vast majority of which will not), is prohibitively expensive. More on this story from the North Sea at Windpower Engineering & Development.

February 1, 2015
Girl Killed by UXO Explosion in Kompong Speu

An 8-year-old girl was killed after a 60-millimetre rocket left over from the government’s fight with the Khmer Rouge exploded in a rice field in Kampong Speu province’s Oral district on Sunday afternoon, the victim’s family and authorities said.
Yong Kea, the mother of Yem Keayi, said that on Sunday morning, a fire broke out at a dam in Trapaing Chor commune. She and her husband went to extinguish the blaze so it wouldn’t damage their rice fields. Their daughter tagged along.
While they tried to put out the flames, they were distracted and didn’t see that Yem was also attempting to help by using a small branch. The rest of this story is at The Cambodia Daily and the Phnom Penh Post.

NEWS ROUNDUP January 2015

2015 Jan

January 31, 2015
Laos: Thousands suffering from the deadly aftermath of US bomb campaign


“If I had arrived 15 minutes later at the hospital, I would have died. I underwent 12 blood transfusions in order to survive.” Sitting in the living room of her wooden stilt house, 39-year-old Buan Kham slowly lifted her skirt to expose what remains of her right leg, amputated at the knee. “If I hadn’t gone to the capital, Vientiane, I would have lost both,” she added, caressing the deep scars running along her left thigh.
Less than a year ago Kham, from the rural village of Na Dee, became one of the 20,000 victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO). The weapons are a lethal legacy of the Vietnam war, which turned this poor, landlocked south-east Asia nation of 6 million into the most bombed country per capita in the world.
More on this story at The Guardian and much more here on Eternal Harvest.

January 29, 2015
Afghans live in peril among unexploded Nato bombs that litter countryside


International troops pulling out of Afghanistan have left behind a lethal legacy of unexploded bombs and shells that are killing and maiming people at a rate of more than one a day. The vast majority are children.
Bombs dropped from the air coupled with munitions left behind in makeshift firing ranges in rural Afghanistan have made parts of the countryside perilous for locals who are used to working the land for subsistence and raw materials.
Since 2001, the coalition has dropped about 20,000 tonnes of ammunition over Afghanistan. Experts say about 10% of munitions do not detonate: some malfunction, others land on sandy ground. Foreign soldiers have also used valleys, fields and dry riverbeds as firing ranges and left them peppered with undetonated ammunition. Read more about this deadly legacy at The Guardian, The Russia Times, and News Everyday.

January 28, 2015
Minor Injured by Israeli UXO in Jordan Valley


Head of al-Maleh village council, Aref Daraghmeh, told WAFA correspondence that 15-year-old Ali Ilyan sustained injuries from the shrapnel of a remnant Israeli bomb, necessitating his transfer to hospital for treatment.
According to al-Monitor website, “The Israeli army holds periodic military exercises in the Jordan Valley involving the use of warplanes and live ammunition.”
It said that the number of those killed by Israel’s unexploded ordnance in the Jordan Valley has reached three since the beginning of 2014. More at The International Middle East Media Center.

January 27, 2015
Unexploded military ordnance detonates, critically injures two El Paso women


Unexploded military ordnance detonated Saturday afternoon near Chaparral, critically injuring two El Paso women who were looking for scrap metal, officials said.
The Otero County Sheriff’s Office said the ordnance went off about 1 p.m. near Landing Stripin Road just west of U.S. Highway 54.
The kind of ordnance that exploded was not identified. The rest of the story is at The Alamogordo Daily News and The El Paso Times.

January 27, 2015
UK offshore ‘underplays UXO risk’


Developers, utilities and asset owners are failing to take account of the risks posed by munitions moving from their recorded positions during the operation and maintenance phase of offshore wind projects, warns 6 Alpha Associates.
The consultancy said that prior to installation work, where there is a high risk of encountering unexploded ordnance (UXO), it is common to carry out a specialist geophysical survey to detect it.
However, the seabed is often littered with debris that can be mistaken for UXO and the cost of investigating each and every anomaly is prohibitively expensive. Any anomalies that turn out to be UXO and slip through the net may shift on the seabed due to wave and tidal processes and in some cases human activities, such as fishing. Read more on this hazard to offshore wind farms here at ReNews.

January 24, 2015
From the Front: Kuchis


Kuchis (koo-cheez) are Afghan nomads. Poorer and outcast, they are the bottom of the Afghan barrel. They do some pretty extreme stuff to survive.
When insurgents fire rockets at us (a daily event), some of them land outside our base without exploding. This creates an are of UXO (unexploded ordnance). A UXO area is a wasteland of explosives. We mark it with the bright orange streamers and cordon it off with razor wire.
Because the unexploded rockets are metal and metal has value, there is incentive to harvest the metal as scrap. Enter the Kuchis. If their trip into the UXO area goes well, they return with metal they can sell. If their trip doesn’t go well… You can read the rest of this short dispatch from Afghanistan at the Pryor Daily Times.

January 23, 2015
Army bomb squad disposes of Georgetown cannon ball


U.S. Army bomb squad Soldiers disposed of a cannon ball that was found in a Georgetown townhouse’s chimney here Jan. 21.
Soldiers from the 55th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company responded to the unexploded ordnance discovery at the 1890s townhouse in this historic neighbor in the nation’s capital. Read more here … and a more interesting read on the same topic from The Daily Mail.

January 12, 2015
Bullsbrook bushfire: wind change may push fire to high-fuel load area


A wind change could push a bushfire 40 kilometres north-east of Perth towards a high-fuel load area, authorities warn. The fire has been downgraded to a watch and act and is now contained and under control but authorities are warning the wind change could see it break containment lines.
Mr Gale said firefighters had focussed on area with unexploded ordnance (UXO) on Royal Australian Air Force land on Monday. Read more on fire and UXO in Australia at ABC.net.

January 11, 2015
Uxo Kills Three in East Jebel Marra, Thousands Without Aid in North Darfur


Three people were killed when unexploded ordnance detonated near Mashrou Abu Zeid in East Jebel Marra today. Thousands of newly displaced villagers from East Jebel Marra, who reached Shangil Tobaya and Tabit in Tawila locality, North Darfur, are living in the open, without water, food, or shelter. “At a distance of seven km east of Mashrou Abu Zeid, Abdelmalek Ishag Adam, Musa Yahya Yagoub, and Hawa Eisa were killed, as well as the donkeys they were riding,” a man from the group they were travelling with, told Dabanga.
“Suddenly we heard and felt a loud explosion, and saw them been torn to pieces,” he said. “It must have been a landmine, or an unexploded bomb, they stepped on.” Learn more at AllAfrica.com.

January 9, 2015
ANAMA neutralizes 76 UXOs in December


Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action has detected and neutralized 76 unexploded ordnance (UXO), as well as mines including 17 anti-personnel devices and one anti-tank mine during last December, ANAMA said.
Some 484 deminers and 118 support staff, six mechanical demining machines and 36 dogs involved in demining operations.
So far, the agency cleared over 278 million square meters from the UXOs and mines in the country, as well as detected and neutralized about 690 thousand unexploded mines and ammunition. The rest of the story is at AzerNews.

January 6, 2015
Afghanistan seeks NATO info on unexploded ordnance


Afghanistan has called on US-led foreign forces to hand over more information about their unexploded ordnance (UXO) across the war-torn country. Mohammad Sediq Rashid, the director of the Mine Action Coordination Center for Afghanistan (MACCA), said Tuesday that the information would save lives.
“They used weapons and they know that unexploded ordnance (UXO) will be left behind. This information is life-saving,” said Rashid.
Rashid added that Afghan authorities have raised the issue with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF); but, so far, there has been no action. He warned that if the US-led forces do not provide Afghans with more required coordinates and locations, lots of people, especially children, will lose their lives. Read more about how wars don’t end when the fighting stops at PressTV.

January 6, 2015
Unexploded munitions a lingering peril as NATO ends Afghan war


The end of NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan could be a watershed moment in tackling unexploded ordnance littering the country, but experts complain US-led forces need to hand over more information on where it all is.
Decades of conflict since the Soviet invasion in 1979 have left landmines, shells, bombs and rockets scattered across towns, villages and fields, even after extensive clearance efforts that have safely removed millions of items. More on the story over at The Daily Mail.

January 6, 2015
Vietnam War’s deadly legacy continues to haunt Laos


Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. The United States dropped around two million tonnes of bombs on the country from 600,000 bombing missions during the Vietnam War more than four decades ago.
But many of these bombs failed to detonate. And these unexploded ordnance continue to kill and maim as many as 100 people per year in Laos. Laos is labelled as the “most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world” – with more bombs falling on it than Europe had during World War II. And by some estimates, up to 30 per cent of the explosives failed to detonate. More on the story both here at Eternal Harvest and over at ChannelNewsAsia.com.

January 5, 2015
JICA’s Efforts to Remove UXO in Cambodia and Laos


Landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) remain in the ground long after a conflict has come to a close, threatening the lives and wellbeing of people and impeding agricultural and economic development. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided aid in Cambodia for many years to remove landmines and is now drawing on this experience in developing similar programs in neighboring Laos. JICA has more on their work in SE Asia at their website.

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.