First UXO of the Year Detonates in Xieng Khouang

UXO Laos

A hidden unexploded bomblet, known in Laos as a `bombie’, exploded on Tuesday in Paek District, Xieng Khouang province, tragically killing one child and injuring five adults and seven other children.

The lead of the hospital’s surgical team, Dr Sivay Vongthongchit, has informed the public that three people were severely injured and have undergone surgery to remove the shrapnel, while one of the victims remains in critical condition in the provincial hospital.

While the remaining victims with minor injuries had also received treatment at the hospital, they were quickly taken care of and discharged.

Dr Sivay stated that badly injured patients would need treatment for several days but assured that the provincial hospital would be able to care for them.

The disastrous event occurred on Tuesday afternoon in Nhotngeum Village, at a Hmong family home where relatives and children of the family had gathered for a traditional ceremony.

Chief of the district Police Headquarters Lieutenant Colonel Khamphay Phomchaleun explained that, the relatives were helping the host to prepare food and the children were playing in the front yard when the bombie exploded.

The Lieutenant Colonel speculated that the bombie may have detonated as a result of the the children giving off vibrations from jumping rope in the yard.

The bombie likely belongs to one of more than 270 million cluster munitions that showered Laos during the Indochina War (1963-1974) when US warplanes discarded over 2 million tonnes of ordnance across the small country.

Up to 30 percent of the fatal weapons failed to erupt, establishing Xieng Khuang as one of the most heavily-bombed provinces in Laos.

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

Though three UXO explosions in Xieng Khuang were reported last year resulting in seven injuries, no lives were claimed.

Statistics have shown, that since the end of the war in 1975, UXOs have killed and crippled tens of thousands of civilians in Laos.