The deathly explosion of an 82-mm mortar shell that killed four children and seriously injured others last weekend in the southern province of Vinh Long was not the first of such cases in Vietnam, nor the first case in the south.
A similar case occurred years ago in Ben Tre Province, which borders Vinh Long. A family stuck three unexploded M-79 warheads, which were separated from their shells, into the ground to act as three stands of a stove for daily cooking.
They cooked their meals every day with the stove for years without a single incident.
But on the ‘day of destiny,’ when the family was hosting a wedding party for one of their members, they had to prepare food for hundreds of guests and so the stove was heated up every hour continuously from the night before.
The three warheads created big explosions, as the temperature was high enough after cooking for a long time. Unluckily, the blast occurred at a time when the bride and bridegroom and relatives of both sides and guests were present at the house. Many were killed and injured, but it was such a long time ago that I can’t remember the number exactly.
Even before this incident, many farmers had fallen victim to UXO explosions when they burned rice stubble to prepare for a new cultivation season. Fire spread from their rice fields to surrounding areas, where bombs, land mines, or other kinds of UXO were well marked with warning signs.
Remember that it was not difficult to see bomb shells, warheads, and bullets of rifles left unattended on rice fields in the south decades ago.
In conclusion, it’s definitely correct to say that the child victims of this most recent case have no knowledge and have never heard of or been taught about the unexploded ordnance (UXO) that can kill. But what about Nguyen Van Lot, the owner of the Vinh Long province house where the explosion of the 82-mm mortar shell occurred last weekend?
He was born in 1963 – the time of war in Vietnam and in his home province. He is the man who found the shell at the bottom of a local canal and threw it in a bush near his house over ten years ago. People of his time can even tell the exact name of the shell fired out when it is still flying in the air just by hearing its blast.
He knows the consequences if the shell explodes, but he still leaves it there for years without reporting it to the local authorities.
Do you know how many reckless people like him know where the next explosion will strike?