Survivors of Vietnam’s scrap blast recall 'rain of bullets'

By Pham Du, Quang Chien   January 5, 2018 | 10:17 pm GMT+7
Survivors of Vietnam’s scrap blast recall 'rain of bullets'
Dang Dinh Tien does not want to go back to his house after it was collapsed by a scrap facility explosion and killed his daughter. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

A man won't go back to the house that buried his daughter and a woman cannot fry fish now as the sizzling sound is enough to startle her.

Dang Dinh Tien holds his wife as they squeeze into a corner of his parents’ house. They sit still and do not say a word to each other.

They have not dared to go back to their house. It is just ruins now, ruins that buried their only daughter.

Tien’s three-year-old girl was one of two children killed in an explosion that shocked the entire nation on Wednesday. The other was a one-year-old boy.

The blast occurred at a scrap facility and sent tons of bullets raining down on Quan Do Village of Bac Ninh Province early morning on Wednesday. 

Tien was sleeping when there was a deafening bang before rocks and dirt came pouring down onto his bed.

He remembered screaming and trying to find his wife and daughter but only reached debris and bullets. His brother who lives nearby rushed to their rescue 10 minutes later, but it was too late for his girl.

As the village got busy cleaning up the mess in their houses and bullets from all the lanes and backyards, all Tien could do was wander around.

“It gave me goose bumps seeing bullets lining up along the road,” he said.

But going back to his house would be worse.

“I would burst out in tears,” the 32-year-old father said. “My daughter is gone.”

Bullets scatter on a road at Quan Do Village in Bac Ninh the morning after the explosion. Photo by VnExpress

Bullets scatter on a road at Quan Do Village in Bac Ninh the morning after the explosion. Photo by VnExpress

The scrap house’s owner has been arrested facing criminal charges and the Defense Ministry is looking into his confession that he bought the bullets from a person at the bomb disposal center of the military.

But that shocking news could not make any sense to Tien. In his parents' house, he is just feeling numb and unrest at the same time. And he’s not the only one.

His neighbor Nghiem Thi Gai has not been able to sleep. Any slight movement can startle her.

She has no guts to cook dinner. “The sizzling sound of frying fish scares me.”

Gai lives 50 meters from the explosion, close enough for it to unroof her house and break most of her furniture.

Her entire village burst out onto the street in the dark, rampaging on bullets and debris. Part of the village went flat and hundreds of houses within one-mile radius were damaged.

“I have never seen anything like that,” said Gai, 58.

A bicycle is knocked down with other debris in the blast. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

A bicycle is knocked down with other debris in the blast. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du

The village’s elders still speak of the “unprecedented rain of bullets” while the children cry and clutch to their parents any time there is a loud noise.

Nghiem Thi Thao, who lived through the heavy U.S. bombings during the Vietnam War, insisted that the bullet rain on Wednesday “was the most terrible” she has seen all her life. 

With blurred vision of a 76-year-old, she is still looking for the remaining bullets around her house for fear that her playful grandchildren might be the next victims.

Some families have decided not to rebuild houses from the old ground.

“We don’t want to be reminded of our most terrible pain,” said Dang Dinh To, a local man.