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Experts to inspect bombsites found in Luang Prabang

Experts in unexploded ordnance (UXO) will begin to survey areas in Luang Prabang province after three large unexploded bombs were found there last week.

The devices are large-scale bombs of the type MK-250, weighing approximately 250 lbs and dropped in the province during the Indochina war.

One of the bombs was found by a resident of Huay Lo village in Pak-Ou district, while the other two were found in Phonngam and Kokmuang villages in Luang Prabang district, about 35 kilometres from the provincial capital.

The two bombs in Luang Prabang district were found by a construction crew while working at a cement factory and repairing a road.

UXO Lao Luang Prabang Office Coordinator Mr Houmphanh Chanthavong told Vientiane Times on Friday that the bombs have been removed to a safe site for later destruction.

However, he said his team would search for other similar items in a 100 to 200 metre radius around where the bombs were found, pointing to the characteristics of bombardment during the war, saying it was unlikely that only two or three bombs would be dropped in one area.

More than 580,000 flights dropped around 3 million tonnes of bombs on Lao territory during the nine years of the war, from 1964 until 1973. Some 270 million of the dropped bombs were cluster munitions or bombies while 4 million were larger munitions.

Experts calculated that about 30 percent of the dropped bombs failed to explode, meaning more than 80 million bombies and hundreds of large bombs lie dormant in the ground. One third or about 87,000 square kilometres of the country's territory is contaminated with bombs.

According to the UXO sector's annual report in 2015, some 240 unexploded bombs were found and removed in the past six years, from 2010 to 2015, and 55 of those were found in 2015 alone.

The extensive contamination by UXO continues to cause deadly accidents and leaves many people with permanent disabilities.

Fifty-eight people were killed last year in UXO-related accidents while most recently on March 21 a tragic accident in Xieng Khuang province caused the death of a 10-year-old girl and resulted in injuries to 12 other people. Half of those injured have been under the age of 10.

A lack of confidence in the safety of the land can impede productivity and therefore the income of rural farmers and their families which in turn reduces opportunities to strengthen and create livelihoods.

In the context of the country's Sustainable Development Goals, the Lao government, in the presence of the Prime Minister and the UN Secretary General, initiated SDG 18 which calls for the removal of UXO as an obstacle to development.

 

By Somxay Sengdara
(Latest Update April 10, 2017)


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