Vientiane Times: “Ten Year Old Killed, Sister Injured in Cluster Bomb Tragedy”

November 12, 2010

A 10-year-old girl was killed and her sister injured on Wednesday by a cluster bomb that exploded in Thasala village, Khamkeuth district, Borikhamxay province. The incident happened at about 11am, when Ms Pui, 10, was returning home from school and picked up an unexploded bomb. Her older sister Ms Paeng, 15, saw the bomb and told her sister what it was. Ms Pui threw it away and the bomb exploded when it hit the ground, seriously injuring Ms Pui and also injuring her sister.

The two girls were taken to Khamkeuth hospital and, after initial treatment, transported to Mittaphab Hospital in Vientiane on the same day. Doctors tried their best to save Ms Pui, but the shrapnel had caused serious injuries and extreme loss of blood and she died, Director of Mittaphab Hospital Associate Professor Dr Vanliem Bouaravong told media yesterday.

The accident occurred as Laos hosts the First Meeting of States Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions from November 9-12 in Vientiane.

Dr Vanliem said the girl’s parents have taken her body back to their hometown for a funeral ceremony. Ms Paeng remains in stable condition at the hospital after receiving treatment for injuries to her knees, body and neck.
Dr Vanliem said doctors will operate to remove shrapnel from her neck.

Ms Paeng cried as she answered questions about the incident. She said that after the explosion she heard her sister coughing up blood and held her until help arrived and they were taken to the district hospital.

Dr Vanliem said this was the first time this year that Mittaphab Hospital has treated a patient involved in a UXO-related accident. Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be the last as Lao people continue to live in fear of UXO three decades after the Indochina war ended.

Last month Mr Ladone of Nhuanthong village in Paek district, Xieng Khuang province, was injured when a UXO device exploded as he lit a fire in his backyard to warm himself. Xieng Khuang is one of the most UXO contaminated provinces in the country.

Mr Ladone was blinded by the explosion. He also sustained injuries to his torso and lost the little finger on his left hand.

Laos is one of the most UXO affected countries in the world, due to cluster munitions dropped during the war of aggression against the three countries of the Indochina Peninsula, said Lao President Choummaly Sayasone at the opening ceremony of the First Meeting of States Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions on Tuesday.

Although the conflict ended more than three decades ago, the devastating consequences can still be seen. About 37 percent of the country’s surface is contaminated with UXO, preventing people from using agricultural land and making many areas uninhabitable. This situation poses major constraints on socio-economic development, poverty reduction efforts, and the everyday life of the Lao people.

Many provinces are heavily contaminated with UXO, particularly Xieng Khuang, Khammuan and Savannakhet.

By Manichanh Pansivongsay

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