Decades after war, Vietnam threatened by 800,000 tons of explosives

By Vu Minh   April 2, 2018 | 12:39 am PT
Decades after war, Vietnam threatened by 800,000 tons of explosives
Unexploded ordnance from the Vietnam War are unearthed in Vietnam's central province of Quang Tri. Photo by VnExpress/Xavier Bourgois
Authorities say it may take more than a century to clear the country of the deadly legacy of war.

The Vietnam War ended more than 40 years ago, but around 800,000 tons of unexploded ordnance remains scattered across the country, official government data shows.

Vietnam is one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world when it comes to explosives, the National Steering Committee on Overcoming Post-War Unexploded Ordnance and Toxic Chemical Consequences said last weekend in Hanoi.

Mines and bombs are still covering up to 6.1 million hectares (over 15 million acres) or 18.7 percent of the country’s land area.

The central region is the worst affected area, with 80 percent of some provinces contaminated.

Between 1945 and 1975, during two wars with French and American invaders, more than 15 million tons of explosives were dropped on Vietnam; four times higher than the amount used in World War II.

With support from the international community, Vietnam is clearing an average of 40,000-50,000 hectares per year, but it still might take as long as 100 years to rid the country of this deadly legacy.

According to government data, a fifth of land in Vietnam is contaminated with unexploded ordnance, and explosions occur frequently. More than 1,500 people are killed every year, while another 2,200 are maimed.

Many are killed by inadvertantly triggering the devices, while others die trying to cut open the bombs to resell the explosives and scrap metal.

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