NEWS ROUNDUP May 2015

2015 May

31 May, 2015
Boy Dies As UXO Detonates in East Jebel Marra, Darfur


A young herder (10) from Taradona village in East Jebel Marra was killed today, when a piece of unexploded ordnance (UXO) detonated. A relative of Ayman Suleiman Musa told Radio Dabanga that the incident occurred in the area between Taradona and Khazan Tunjur this (Sunday) afternoon. There is just a little bit more here from AllAfrica.com.

24 May, 2015
Japan: Please Return Our War Dead Home


Over the years, remains of Japanese soldiers found on Guadalcanal, Western Province, and parts of Central Province were retrieved and returned to Japan for proper burials. An official of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said thousands more are still lying here and in other countries of the Pacific such as Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, and Palau. Pacific leaders responded to the request by expressing their willingness to provide all possible support to assist Japan in their recovery efforts.
They also welcomed an initiative from the Japanese government to undertake the safe removal and clearance of World War II unexploded ordnance (UXO). Thousands of UXO are lying under the waters and on soils in Solomon Islands.
You can read a little bit more here.

May 22, 2015
Cambodian Underwater Mine Team Finds Success


When 42-year-old fisherman Yor Dieb snagged his net on an object just meters from the Mekong River bank here, he had little choice but to dive down and untangle it by hand.
The net had wrapped itself on the tail of a live 227-kilogram bomb, a relic of the 1970-1975 civil war when the United States dropped hundreds of thousands of tons on Cambodia, a so-called “sideshow” to its battle in neighboring Vietnam.
There wasn’t much Yor could do – until late last month, when a specialist in demining came to his village 30 kilometers southeast of Phnom Penh, asking whether residents had found unexploded ordnance, or UXO, in the river. Yor told them he had, and on Thursday, Cambodia’s newly trained UXO dive team from the government’s Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) dived the 6 meters, extracted the Mk-82 bomb from the Mekong’s murky depths, brought it ashore and defused it. You can see, read and listen to the rest of this interesting story on underwater demining in Cambodia at VOA, The Guardian, Huffington Post and RFI.

May 18, 2015
Vietnam signs UXO clearance aid pack with U.S. mine advisory group

Big News!
Vietnam’s central Quang Tri Province and the Mine Advisory Group (MAG) of the United States on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to carry out an unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance project in the province between 2015 and 2017.
According to the MoU, the U.S. State Department has pledged to sponsor 10 million U.S. dollars in aid for the province to disarm UXO left over from the war in Vietnam.
The project aims to reduce the risks of injuries caused by UXO while clearing contaminated areas and improving local livelihoods, reported Vietnam’s state-run news agency VNA.
That said, the US is spending nearly as much in this one province in Vietnam as in all of next-door Laos. You can read the rest of the story at the Shanghai Daily. And/or in VietNam Net.

May 15, 2015
Canadian Forces clearance divers in Estonia to dispose of munitions from Second World War

Operation OPEN SPIRIT is an annual, combined and joint Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) clearance operation conducted in the spirit of Partnership for Peace and hosted on a rotational basis by one of three Baltic State NATO members: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The CAF contingent consists of 14 clearance divers and support personnel based out of Fleet Diving Unit (Atlantic) from Canadian Forces Base Halifax in Halifax, Nova Scotia. More a series of bullet points than a story – read the rest from the Ottawa Citizen here.

May 14, 2015
UXO have economic and social impacts, says Rabuka

The Unexploded Ordinance has posed an economic and social impact to the lives of people in the Solomon Islands.
A representative from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) highlighted this during the launching of the WW2 photographic exhibition at the National Art Gallery on Wednesday.
Sakiusa Rabuka said, this has caused the slow progress of development in the country. Read more about WWII-era UXO in this Pacific island nation here.

May 14, 2015
The Hydrographic Society UXO Survey Seminar

It’s an underwater UXO seminar in Britain! Sounds interesting: “Taking place at Southampton Solent University Conference Centre on June 19th, the event will attract participants from a range of industry sectors including Offshore Oil & Gas, Marine Renewables, Port and Terminal Civil Engineering and Dredging.
Unexploded ordnance (UXO) pose a potential risk to seabed developers and contractors and the survey and detection of such explosive munitions presents various challenges. Bibby HydroMap have decades of experience in the provision of large scale UXO surveys, much of which is a result of the growth in the UK offshore wind industry. The company have worked closely with clients and UXO consultants to optimise their UXO survey configuration to maximise data quality whilst increasing efficiency.” See more here.

May 11, 2015
National Guard search for explosives in Winchester Hills; STGnews Videocast

Searches for explosives in the rural community of Winchester Hills north of St. George have become a part of life for some residents since 2007, when one resident discovered a 3 1/2-inch bazooka round that was apparently left in the area over 50 years ago; at that time the area was a Utah National Guard training range. Monday, the search continued as a private company hired by the state of Utah in conjunction with the National Guard combed an area of the community and the surrounding area with high powered metal detectors. More on UXO in Utah here.

May 8, 2015
Job Announcement: UXO Technician 3 in Alabama

A job in the USA for a professional clearance worker! How unusual is that? “UXO Technician Level 3 position with the potential for extensive travel and long-term on-site work as required.” I wonder if you get to travel to Laos or Vietnam or Cambodia? Probably not… Anyway, if interested, here is the job link.

May 7, 2015
UXO kills man as he ploughs

A man hired to operate a plough was killed in a rice field yesterday when he struck an anti-tank mine in Battambang province’s Phnom Prek district, bringing this year’s death toll from unexploded ordnance to at least eight.
The victim, Sorn Sim, 36, was a resident of O’Tasok village, according to Phnom Prek district police chief Song Sopheak.
Sopheak said the incident occurred in a field that farmers had cultivated for years, but had formerly served as a battlefield. Read more about farming dangers in Western Cambodia at The Phnom Penh Post.

May 4, 2015
Boy Killed, Three Injured in UXO Explosion

A 12-year-old boy was killed and two other children and their adult neighbor were seriously injured when an old artillery shell exploded on Saturday evening in a remote area of Preah Vihear province, a local military police official said Sunday.
The explosion occurred after Soeun Chin, a 28-year-old soldier, found the DK-75 shell while gathering firewood in the forest with the three children and decided to put it in his cart and take it home, according to Chhour Bunsong, the military police commander for Choam Ksan district in Preah Vihear. The Cambodia Daily has the rest of the story.

May 3, 2015
Ordnance removal workers say job is hazardous, pay is unfair

It’s not a job for the faint of heart. Unexploded ordnance that litters former military training sites on many Hawaiian islands is unstable, known to go off without warning. One such occurrence early this month sent two maintenance workers at Makua Military Reservation on Oahu to the hospital with serious injuries, West Hawaii Today reported Tuesday.
Eleven people have been killed or injured by old artillery rounds in the state since the 1940s. Read more on the UXO danger in Hawaii at The Times Union.

NEWS ROUNDUP March 2015

2015 March

march 31, 2015
“Two of my friends are lying there, dead.”


It started as just another day of boys’ play. “I was with my friends at a quarry that is used as a shooting range; it was seven of us. We’ve played there many times before,” said Maksim* somberly, lying in a hospital bed in his native Donetsk city, Ukraine.
“We spotted a cluster bomb that was just lying around. Two of my friends picked it up and started taking photos with it. The rest of us stepped back, because we were scared. Then my friends threw the bomb into a hole in the ground.”
What happened next is vivid in Maksim’s memory, and it will stay with him for the rest of his life.
The rest of the story is told by UNICEF.

March 30, 2015
Boonton woman looking for MIAs, unexploded bombs in Laos


U.S. Army Spc. Laura Gutbrod of Boonton is on a 35-day mission to southern Laos, part of a 20-person team looking for unexploded ordinance and any evidence of MIAs from the Vietnam War.
Her Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) recovery team is going over the same terrain U.S. forces bombed or traversed 50 years ago.
“Even finding one piece of tiny bone means something,” Gutbrod said in a telephone interview with the Daily Record. More on the story (plus wildly inaccurate ideas on mountain heights in Laos) can be read at The Daily Record of Parsippany, NJ.

March 24, 2015
Four Young Boys Injured by UXO

Four primary school boys aged 10 to 13 were injured, two seriously, after playing with unexploded ordnance in Siem Reap, Chi Kraeng district police chief Touch Sakol said yesterday.
The accident occurred on Tuesday, about 150 metres from Pongro primary school, where the boys are students. During a class break, they wandered away from the school perimeter and found the device, which they began to hit with sticks, explained Sakol, adding, “They didn’t know that it was unexploded ordnance.” More on this tragic Cambodian story over at the Phnom Penh Post.

March 23, 2015
UXO Survey Workshop: Call for Abstracts


The Hydrographic Society UK (THS UK) is to organise a one-day seminar and accompanying table-top exhibition focusing on Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Surveys on 19 June 2015.
Presenters may discuss case studies and genuine UXO survey operations, hazard identification and reduction, equipment and sensor technology, survey methodologies, data processing, modelling, depth of burial algorithms and the special challenges associated with ground-truthing, discrimination, classification and UXO clearance techniques. Have something interesting to say about that? Check out the link at Hydro International.

March 20, 2015
Blown Away

Explosions blasted mud in the air as soldiers conducted detonation of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Kosovo.
Soldiers with Kosovo Force 19 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams, Kosovo Security Force (KSF) Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams, and a Kosovo Police (KP) Improvised Explosive Device (IED) defeat teams, participate in the disposal of more than 200 pounds of recovered explosive hazards at the Kosovo Police demolition range in Mt. Golesh, Kosovo, March 18. Read more about the US Military doing clearance work in places other than Laos over at DVIDS.

March 19, 2015
Job Opening: UXO Technician II Ft. Irwin, CA

We don’t usually get to make job posts, but there is an opening in California for a bomb clearance expert. Have a gander.

March 17, 2015
Mines Action Canada Welcomes Canada’s Ratification of Cluster Bomb Ban Despite Lingering Concerns about Legislation

Canada has finally ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions and totally banned these inhumane weapons. After signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December 2008, Canada ratified the Convention today and will be fully bound by the provisions of the Convention on September 1, 2015. As a full state party, Canada will join 89 other states in a total ban on cluster munitions due to the unacceptable humanitarian harm they cause. The Convention bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions as well as assistance with any of those acts.
Read more here about the debated clause that allows Canada to still fight alongside cluster-munition-using countries like the USA.

March 16, 2015
Laser-imaging drone to hunt out unexploded bombs in war-torn nations

We first noted this company and its claims a few months back, but they have since made a new pitch, this time at SXSW. There are so many things that make this unlikely to work in a place like Laos (where they say they will test it), but, as my Oma would say, “If they say it and it’s true, I guess you can believe it.” Check out laser drones here.

March 10, 2015
ANAMA neutralizes 195 UXOs and mines in February

179 UXOs, 3 anti-tank mines and 12 anti-personnel mines were detected and neutralized, the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) told APA.
487 specialists and 119 assistants, 6 mine clearing vehicles and 36 mine detection dogs were involved in the operations. There is a little bit more over at APA.

March 9, 2015
The Lone Buffalo Cleared Unexploded Bombs And Boosted Needy Kids

Karen and I were happy to get a story about this great guy – and a character in Eternal Harvest – into this story on NPR’s website. Go read about the legacy of Manophet, one of the most remarkable people we have met in our travels about Laos.

March 5, 2015
‘Heroic’ giant rats sniff out landmines in Tanzania

he pre-dawn silence at the foot of the Uluguru mountains is disturbed only by the cries of drowsy birds, the whisper of boots through grass and an intermittent clicking sound that is irresistible to 60 pairs of tiny, almost translucent, ears.
When the sun finally rises over the blue peaks to flood the fields below, it illuminates one of the more unlikely scenes of human-animal cooperation. More on the heroic bomb rats of Tanzania from The Guardian.
Watched over by men and women clutching bananas and the small clickers used to train puppies, dozens of African giant pouched rats shuttle across taped-off alleyways trying to catch the lingering scent of TNT from some of the 1,500 deactivated landmines that have been sown in the red earth.

March 4, 2015
2,723 mines, UXOs neutralized last year in Azerbaijan’s war territories, liberated lands

In 2014, Azerbaijan cleared of landmines a total area of 334 265 77 square meters in the districts of Fuzuli, Aghjabedi, Terter, Khojavand, Aghdam, Tovuz, Gedebey, Goranboy, Gazakh, Goygol and Aghstafa in operations carried out to clear off and neutralize unexploded ordinances (UXO) in the country’s war territories and areas liberated from invasion, the Azerbaijani government’s 2014 annual report said.
You can read a little bit more and find links at APA.

March 5, 2015
After Decades after war, Vietnam and the US battle a legacy of bombs

NOTE – A third story on the US giving aid for UXO removal in Vietnam, this time by Reuters.
Red skull-and-crossbones markers dot the horizon in a barren patch of land in Vietnam where missteps could be fatal.
The signs warn of landmines and bombs, the legacy of a war with the United States that claims casualties even today, four decades after hostilities ceased in 1975.
Unexploded ordnance (UXO) has since killed 42,000 people and wounded 62,000 in Vietnam, according to official data. Three in every 10 casualties were children. The rest of the story is at The Economic Times of India.

March 3, 2015
US to provide $8 million for UXO removal in central Vietnam

NOTE – This is the same topic as in the Xinhua story below, though with rather different figures.
This year the U.S. government will grant US$8 million for clearing unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over in the central Vietnamese province of Quang Tri during the war before 1975, a senior American official has said. Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security for the U.S. State Department, revealed the grant during her working visit to the province on Monday.
At a meeting with leaders of the provincial administration, the under secretary expressed her delight at the outcomes of the cooperation between the U.S. and Vietnam in general and the province in particular in dealing with war consequences. Click here to read the story as interpreted by Tuoi Tre News in Vietnam.

March 2, 2015
US official visits ’17 parallel north’ province, promising 10 million for UXO

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security of the United States Rose Gottemoeller on Monday paid a visit to Vietnam’s central Quang Tri province where the “17th parallel north” divided Vietnam into two zones during 1954-1975 war time to observe US-funded efforts to survey and clear unexploded ordnance (UXO) of war.
Quang Tri, some 480 km south of capital Hanoi, has been the first locality in the country implementing a pilot program of international cooperation on humanitarian demining allowed by Vietnamese government, according to state-run radio Voice of Vietnam (VOV). During war time, Quang Tri was among the most-hit localities by bombs. Click here to read more of the story from Xinhua.

March 2, 2015
IN DEPTH: UXO — the hidden danger for offshore wind

The waters off Northern Europe are littered with millions of tonnes of live, unexploded ordnance (UXO) — a legacy of two world wars and decades of government sea-dumping that continued until the 1980s, explains Simon Cooke, chief executive of UXO risk management consultancy 6 Alpha Associates.
“[Dumping ordnance] was not only irresponsible and short-termist, it’s now proving exceptionally expensive to deal with,” says the former British Army bomb disposal officer, who served in Afghanistan and Kosovo. “And after years of storm events and conventional sea movement, these things drift, so the munitions don’t stay where you think they are.” Learn more about the lightly reported issue in the North Sea at Recharge 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 April 2014

April2014News

April 29, 2014
UK-based 6 Alpha Associates to do clearance work in Gernam North Sea

“We’re regularly reminded, during the course of offshore wind construction, of the sheer size and scale of the UXO challenge,” said 6 Alpha managing director Simon Cooke. More at ReNews.biz.

April 22, 2014
Unexploded wartime bomb found in Nauru detention centre

An unexploded wartime bomb has been found in the section of the offshore processing centre on Nauru that detains children, pregnant women and families, raising serious questions about whether the site is safe to hold asylum seekers.
Internal emails from Nauru, obtained exclusively by Guardian Australia, reveal that after heavy rainfall last week an unexploded artillery shell was found next to the “recreation tent”, which serves as a primary school for asylum seeker children. The Guardian Australia has the full story here.

April 21, 2014
Two more maimed by UXO in North Darfur

Two North Darfur youngsters were critically injured on Monday after a grenade they found at the roadside detonated. Idris Nil Salaheldin (20) had his hand blown off, and suffered severe injuries to his neck, while Kamal Mokhtar (21) was seriously wounded throughout his body and his hand was cut off.
This is the second incident involving unexploded ordnance (UXO) in just over a week, and the fourth in Darfur in a month. Read the rest at Radio Dabanga.

April 18, 2014
Officials late to act on bomb found near Vietnamese school

Curious children spent days gathered around a 1.2 meter bomb, estimated to weigh hundreds of kilograms, in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province after officials unearthed and abandoned it.
The bomb remained exposed to the elements on Thursday afternoon as authorities in the province awaited further instructions from their superiors. Read more and see photos at Thanh Nien News.

April 18, 2014
UXO injuries, deaths on the rise in Cambodia

Forty people were injured or killed by landmines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the first two months of 2014, a figure nearly twice as high as that recorded in the same period last year, a recent report from the Cambodian Mine Action Centre shows. You can read the full story at The Phnom Penh Post.

April 15, 2014
Plain of Jars Project kicks off a fundraiser to support Lao children

Photographer Jon Witsell has launched a campaign to raise $10,000 for the Lone Buffalo Foundation near the Plain of Jars. See the online fundraising site here and the project site here.

April 13, 2014
Unexploded ordnance kills three children in Darfur’s East Jebel Marra

Three children, as well as several cattle, were killed when a grenade – a suspected remnant of the almost daily Sudanese aerial bombardments of the area – exploded on Sunday in West Chazan Tenjur in Darfur’s East of Jebel Marra. There is a large military base in the area.
One of the relatives of the dead told Radio Dabanga that the bomb killed Zainab Jaqoob Adam (8), Aaron Haj Issa (11), and Tayeb Adam Yahya (14), who were herding livestock. You can read the rest at Radio Dabanga.

April 12, 2014
Australia to help Vietnam overcome UXO consequences

Vietnamese Deputy Defense Minister Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh has received pledges from Australian officials that Australia will support Vietnam to overcome the consequences of unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over in Vietnam in wartime.
The pledges were made in the meetings between Vinh and his Australian hosts during his visit to Australia on April 7-12. The rest of the story is at Tuoi Tre News.

April 10, 2014
Hero Rat NGO battles landmine threat legacy of Vietnam War

The NGO APOPO that uses rats to sniff out explosives in landmines and unexploded bombs in former war zones, says it will be working with partners in Vietnam and Lao PDR to coordinate and monitor a new programme of clearance activities.
Landmines and unexploded bombs remain a problem in large areas of Vietnam and Lao PDR, posing threats to civilians and preventing land-use. Get your demining rat fix at Xperedon.com.

April 9, 2014
589 UXOs and 31 mines disarmed in Azerbaijan last month

Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) told APA that 589 UXOs, 29 antitank mines and 2 antipersonnel mines were found and disarmed during the operations.
One mine/UXO accident was recorded in March. Read more about it at APA News. More here.

April 5, 2014
Two dead from leftover ordnance in Sudan’s Kordofan

Two people have been killed by ordnance left behind in a Sudanese town where thousands of people are returning after rebel-government fighting last year, the United Nations said on Saturday.
They are the latest casualties from unexploded ordnance (UXO) in South Kordofan.
Almost three years of war in that state and Blue Nile, where insurgents and the army are also fighting, have displaced or severely affected more than one million people. Al Manar has the rest of the story

April 4, 2014
Sudan: Averting the risks of unexploded ordnance

While walking home on 5 July 2013, 14-year-old Kharsha from Zalingei, Central Darfur, picked up an object resembling a small pineapple. Arriving home, she handed it to her four-year-old brother Zakaria. Their mother, Hawaya, was preparing breakfast outside their home when she realized that her son was playing with a dangerous object. Despite her warning, he continued to fiddle with the device, which started emitting a sound. Hawaya quickly alerted other children in the area to move away, but the object exploded, injuring the entire family and leading to the death of her son two days later.
Hawaya was among several residents in Zalingei who had received risk-education training from UNAMID’s Ordnance Disposal Office (ODO). Unfortunately, while she recognized the object in young Zakaria’s hands as a threat, she was not able to intervene quickly enough to save his life. Read the rest of the story at AllAfrica.com.

April 4, 2014
When the ground isn’t safe – Playing football in the shadow of cluster bombs

Playing football in Sweden is different from playing in Laos. Not only is Sweden on the other side of the world and has it got lots of lush flat grass to play on; in Sweden Mini did not have to fear kicking the ball off the football pitch into a cluster bomb contaminated area.
Laos is the country most heavily affected by cluster munitions in the world. Between 1964 and 1973 the US dropped at least 270 million cluster bomblets. Of those, it is thought that 80 million failed to explode as they fell on the ground. The Cluster Munition Coalition has the rest of the story.

April 4, 2014
Somali women lead the way in marking this year’s International Day of Mine Awareness

This year’s International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action has been spearheaded by Somali women who joined together in an effort to raise awareness on mines and other Explosive Remnants of War (ERW).
After decades of civil war, Somalia has been riddled with mines and unexploded ordnance that threaten the lives of young children and limit access to basic services and economic opportunities for much of the population. As a result, explosive contamination represents a one of the most serious impediments to the stability, security and development of Somalia. See the rest of the story at AllAfrica.com.

April 3, 2014
US provides Cambodia with underwater demining equipment

The United States on Thursday handed over underwater demining equipment to the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC)’s Underwater Demining Unit in northern Kampong Chhnang province, said a press statement from the US Embassy.
US Ambassador William E. Todd delivered the equipment, including inflatable boats, air compressors, lift bags, and other diving equipment to CMAC’s Director General Heng Ratana.
Read more from the news mavens at Xinhua.

April 3, 2014
Laos marks International Day of Mines Awareness

The Lao National Regulatory Authority for Unexploded Ordnance/Mine Action Sector (UXO-NRA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) held a joint press conference to mark the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference here in capital Vientiane, Minister to the Government Office and Chairman of the UXO-NRA Bounheuang Douangphachanh and UN Resident Coordinator Minh Pham reaffirmed their strong commitment to the eradication of mines and other remnants of war. See the rest of the story over on Xinhua.

April 3, 2014
Asian landmines: A deadly trap 40 years on

There’s a young man today living in a village close to the Vietnamese border in Laos. He has lost his right eye and has shrapnel lodged in his head, which causes him pain and fever. His family can only afford to buy paracetamol to help ease his pain.
Ped was just 11 when a cluster bomb accident claimed the lives of three of his siblings, and ruined his life as well. His family was working together in the rice fields when his 13-year-old brother Oat struck a bomb with his shovel, the explosion killing him instantly along with his sister Mai, 15, and eight-year-old brother Pui. Ped was knocked unconscious but survived. See the full story with video at The Age.

 

How I Got That Story – CJR

Explosive situation

By The Editors
Jan. 2, 2013
Columbia Journalism Review

Redfern_Gastronomica_UXO_03In 2005, Jerry Redfern and Karen Coates were in Laos reporting a story on the Plain of Jars region for Archaeology magazine, and they kept meeting people who had a “bomb problem.” The husband-and-wife team—he’s a photographer, she’s a writer—had lived in Southeast Asia for a number of years, and they were not unfamiliar with the problem of unexploded ordnance leftover from US bombing during the Vietnam War. But until this trip, they hadn’t fully understood, as they put it, “the daily deadliness” of it. They decided it was a story they needed to pursue. Using old US Air Force maps to guide them to areas that were heavily bombed, they spent the next several years talking to the farmers and scrap-metal hunters for whom the risk of death or serious injury is a daily reality. READ MORE

Bombs Away – Milwaukee Magazine

A retired Wisconsin principal now digs for explosives.

By Karen J. Coates / Photo by Jerry Redfern
December 2008
Milwaukee Magazine

Jim HarrisJim Harris crouches on one mud-stained knee, gingerly probing the dirt around a fist-size bomb. A boy found it while digging for insects in the southern Laotian village of Phonephanpek. Harris is calm but concerned. The hour is late, the sun painting everything ochre. “I hate finding ordnance this time of day,” he says.

Harris, a 60-year-old retired elementary school principal from Weston, a small town just south of Wausau, is a tall mustachioed man with a few wisps of gray hair. He towers over most Laotians but retains the gentle, patient manner of a long-time educator. Here in Laos, his lessons center on weaponry and survival.

Between 1964 and 1973, the United States dumped 4 billion pounds of explosives on this sparsely populated Southeast Asian as part of its effort to battle guerillas during the Vietnam War. U.S. forces conducted one raid every eight minutes for nine years. “Bombies,” as the locals here call them, were packed by the hundreds into canisters that opened in midair, scattering the load. Up to 30 percent of those bombs never detonated and Laotian soil remains contaminated today. Villagers are maimed and killed every week while farming their fields, foraging for food or searching for scrap metal. “Digging is dangerous,” Harris says. READ MORE (PDF)