Decades after war, Vietnam and the U.S. battle a legacy of bombs

Thu Mar 5, 2015 5:48am EST
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By Nguyen Ha Minh

TRIEU PHONG, Vietnam (Reuters) - Red skull-and-crossbones markers dot the horizon in a barren patch of land in Vietnam where missteps could be fatal.

The signs warn of landmines and bombs, the legacy of a war with the United States that claims casualties even today, four decades after hostilities ceased in 1975.

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) has since killed 42,000 people and wounded 62,000 in Vietnam, according to official data. Three in every 10 casualties were children.

Quang Tri province, once the demilitarized zone between the communist North and the Washington-backed democratic South, remains one of the world's most dangerous places.

Much of it is wasteland and like five nearby provinces, its vast swathes hide leftover explosives. Ten percent of the 15.4 million tons of ammunition used during the war never detonated.

After diplomatic relations with Vietnam were normalized in 1995, the United States has spent $80 million in helping clear war-era bombs that leave survivors blind, deaf or missing limbs.

"It's important to remember how important it is to get rid of the results of war as fast as we can," U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller told Reuters.

The goal is to reclaim 52 million square meters (62 million square yards) of Quang Tri farmland, unused for half a century in one of the world's top agriculture exporters.   Continued...

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller looks on in front of images of U.S. bombs, mines and mortars during her visit to a bombs and mines education centre in Vietnam's central Quang Tri province, in this March 2, 2015 file photo.   REUTERS/Kham/Files