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UXO explodes killing one, injuring 12

A buried bombie exploded on Tuesday in Paek district, Xieng Khuang province, killing one child and injuring five adults and seven other children, officials have said.

Three people were seriously injured and are undergoing surgery in the provincial hospital to remove the shrapnel. One person remains in critical condition, the head of the hospital's surgical team, Dr Sivay Vongthongchit, said yesterday.

The other victims are also being treated in the hospital, while some of those with minor injuries have returned home.

The tragedy happened on Tuesday afternoon at the home of a Hmong family in Nhotngeum village where relatives and children had gathered for a traditional ceremony, Chief of the district Police Headquarters Lieutenant Colonel Khamphay Phomchaleun said.

Relatives were helping the host to prepare food and the children were playing in the front yard when the bombie exploded, he said, adding that his men rushed to the scene to investigate the incident.

It is thought the bombie might have exploded due to the vibrations given off as the children played a rope jumping game, Lt Col Khamphay said.

The bombie is most probably one of more than 270 million cluster munitions that rained down on Laos during the Indochina War (1963-1974) when US warplanes dropped over 2 million tonnes of ordnance across the country. Up to 30 percent of the deadly devices failed to detonate and Xieng Khuang was one of the most heavily-bombed provinces.

Lt Col Khamphay said district and provincial authorities have been to the hospital to see what they can do to help the victims.

Dr Sivay said the most seriously injured patients would need treatment for several days but the provincial hospital would be able to care for them.

An official from the province's Labour and Social Welfare Department said that a non-government organisation was offering assistance and support to the survivors in addition to that provided by the state.

The tragic accident is the first to occur in the province this year. Last year, there were three UXO explosions in Xieng Khuang, injuring seven people. No deaths were reported, according to the official.

Statistics show that over the past four decades since the war ended in 1975, UXOs have killed and maimed tens of thousands of civilians in Laos.

By Souksakhone Vaenkeo
(Latest Update March 23, 2017)

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