10 July 2008

Cluster bomb kills 3 children in Quang Tri, Vietnam

Three boys were killed yesterday by a cluster bomb explosion on a hillside in Hai Lang District, Quang Tri Province, where they were looking for "sim fruit" (myrtaceae), a wild fruit popular with local children. The accident occurred about 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, 10 July 2008.The three boys, Dao Ba Thanh, age 12, Tran Duy Quyet, 13, and Pham Nhu Hoi, 14, were already dead when nearby villagers arrived at the scene after hearing the explosion. The accident occurred at Ruong Cay Hill in Cau Nhi village, Hai Chanh commune, part of Hai Lang district. The cause of the accident is uncertain. However, Mr. Pham Nhu Nam, head of Cau Nhi village, said that the severed limbs, injuries to the victims' faces, and numerous puncture wounds on the bodies led him to conclude that the accident was caused by explosive fragments from a cluster bomb. Pieces of other cluster munitions which had exploded in the past were found in the area, and some intact cluster munitions were still visible in the immediate area of the accident.The three boys were the youngest sons of low income farm families, all living in the same hamlet near each other. Villagers said that each day after school, the three children helped their parents take care of the families' livestock. They shared responsibilities for tending water buffalo near Ruong Cay Hill, where the accident occurred.An elderly man, a longtime neighbor of the victims' families, said the area is still contaminated with cluster bombs which were dropped by aircraft around 1972. He said people continue to cultivate the land and work in the forests, where they have found many cluster bombs. However, since no accident had occurred in recent years, they did not report the problem to local authorities or to Project RENEW, and no Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team had been dispatched to the area to start clean up operations.Project RENEW is investigating the incident and an EOD response team is now being sent to the site on a priority basis.According to Project RENEW survey data, the last such accident occurred in November, 1996, when two children were also killed while tending livestock.