Laos: Unexploded Ordnance

Phonsavahn

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UXO Lao deminers filling out a medical survey before starting work.

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Female deminers discussing their assignments and swapping stories before heading out to the fields.

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Moving out to the fields.

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The team is setting up operations and equipment. They have been here a week and cleared about half the designated area.

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Metal detectors being calibrated in a safe zone. This will ensure the that the depth of the search is accurate.

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First pass of the loop detector to mark any noticable metal objects in the ground.

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Each of these sandbags covers an unearthed explosive. The munitions are highly unstable and have to be destroyed in situ.

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Deminers laying out wires for the electric detonator. About 30 bombs are be rigged with 100 gr. of TNT each.

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A female deminer communicating over radio before a detonation.

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The explosives are covered by sandbags to minimize the blast and scatter of fragments, and to minimize accidental access by animals or children during the night.

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All deminers have left the field to wait for the detonation before resuming their work. Medical personnel and translator are standing by in the hot morning sun.

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Final preparations for the blast. The electronic detonator is hooked up and the TNT is live.

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Updating the maps of cleared land, as well as documented found and destroyed munitions.

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A roving team is noting down positions of detected munitions in the field.

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Between blasts, deminers try to find a bit of rest in the only shade available in the harsh Lao heat.

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A detonation of 11 submunitions and other surface weapons. Note the farmland and populated huts had to be evacuated, yet the cow wouldn't move.

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A surfaced clustersubmunition "in the flesh". They are about the size of a tennis ball, and can easily kill or severely maim a person.

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A deminer double-checking market sites. After detection each detected signal has to be dug up by hand.

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A deminer digging up detected metal. This is very dangerous work, as inadvertently touching the munition could set it off. Often they dig in vain though: buried old helmets, cooking utensils, barbed wire and such give many false alarms.

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The warehouse where disabled munitions are stored before safe detonation.

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Artillery shells are moved from the warehouse to a safe location for destruction. In the watercontainer in the back, chemical bombs are kept (ie. phosphorous bombs).