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Bomb in central Laos detonated
[January 17, 2012]

Bomb in central Laos detonated

Jan 17, 2012 (Vientiane Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- VIENTIANE (VIENTIANE TIMES/ANN) -- Solidarity Service International (SODI) bomb disposal experts have successfully detonated the 2,000 pound bomb recently unearthed by a road worker in Khamkeuth district, Borikhamxay province in central Laos.

Pounsawath Thavisouk, a member of the SODI UXO clearance team, said they disarmed the bomb in a controlled detonation on Sunday. He told local media on Monday that "a temple, a primary school and a few homes were damaged".

The clearance team initially decided to wait for two weeks before attempting to remove, defuse or detonate the bomb due to concerns about the automatic timing mechanism, so they buried it underneath 4,000 sandbags and evacuated Oudom village.

In the end they decided to conduct a controlled demolition onsite as it was deemed too risky to move the bomb. Despite the fact that the blast was muffled by the sandbags, it was still a very large explosion and several buildings sustained damage.

Debris from the explosion rained down on the village leaving both the school and the temple with a number of holes in their roofs. The ground shook violently and the explosion could be felt outside the 2km exclusion zone.

The windows were blown out of many of the houses in the village.

Pounsawath said "The bulldozer driver hit the bomb two or three times with his grader blade and luckily it didn't explode. Had it done so, I think everyone within a one kilometre radius would have been killed." Khamkeuth district au- thorities had already evacuated most of the village residents and those who remained were ordered to leave prior to the demolition. The SODI team exploded the bomb at about 11am on Sunday morning, and villagers were allowed to return to their homes at about 3pm.

Pounsawath told Vientiane Times they had buried the bomb under sandbags as a precaution in case it exploded. They felt there was a strong chance the timing device might have been activated after being struck by the bulldozer.

After the time window passed without the bomb exploding, the SODI team decided that the only safe way to defuse it was to explode it onsite, as it was too dangerous to move.

"Our experts thought it would self detonate within a few days of being struck, but after two weeks it became clear that the mechanism was no longer active, so we decided to blow it up ourselves," he explained.

Pounsawath was not on hand to witness the explosion himself but told the Vientiane Times it went off with quite a bang.

A Khamkeuth district school official, Phetmany Chintana, said most of the village school's roof had been destroyed in the fallout after the explosion.

"But our pupils can now return to school safely," he said. The children and the rest of the villagers had been ordered to stay at home or at the evacuation centre since January 4 after the bulldozer hit the bomb the previous day.

District education officials met on Monday to discuss repairs to the roof, which must be done before the rainy season arrives, and possible compensation.

The National Regulatory Authority for UXO/Mine Action Sectors in Laos said they may be able to source funding for repairs to the school, temple and houses damaged in the explosion.

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