War’s deadly debris

Andrew Warsap reports on his work in Laos clearing explosives left by the Vietnam war

The World Today Published 5 October 2020 2 minute READ

Andrew Warsap

Technical field manager, Khammouane province, Mines Advisory Group, Laos

While building a new service area for lorries at the Lao-Vietnam border, the driver of an excavator thought he had hit a tree stump and adjusted the angle of his digger to remove the obstruction.

On hearing a distinctive ‘clang’ over the growl of the engine he paused, clambered out of his cab and went to investigate. On seeing the source of the clang, he ran for help.

Delays are not welcome here. Trade across the border at the once sleepy village of Langkhan, in Khammouane province, central Laos, has increased enormously over the past five years and a larger parking area for trucks waiting to cross the border is badly needed.

This time, however, delay was inevitable. The driver had uncovered another reminder of the Indochina war that raged all around this site nearly 50 years ago. In this case it was an American 750lb MK117 bomb, complete with deep score marks were his digger’s bucket had just missed the nose fuse.

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