Viet­nam and US launch Danang dioxin clean-up

Army he­li­copter goes miss­ing

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

HANOI: Viet­nam and the United States yes­ter­day launched the sec­ond phase of a dioxin clean-up in Danang, where mil­lions of litres of Agent Or­ange were stored dur­ing the war be­tween the for­mer en­e­mies. The US sprayed the de­fo­liant over large swathes of south­ern jun­gle dur­ing the Viet­nam War to flush out Viet Cong guer­ril­las, and Viet­namese vic­tims’ groups have long blamed the toxic residue for de­for­mi­ties and dis­ease. Though Wash­ing­ton has dis­puted the link be­tween dioxin ex­po­sure and bad health, the US gov­ern­ment has committed to help clean up toxic land in the com­mu­nist na­tion.

The coun­tries, whose re­la­tions have warmed in re­cent years yes­ter­day be­gan treat­ing 45,000 cu­bic me­tres of soil con­tam­i­nated with dioxin at Danang Air­port, a task ex­pected to be fin­ished by mid-2017. “I am en­cour­aged by how this project con­tin­ues to be a sym­bol of our hon­esty about the past, deal­ing with what re­mains and turn­ing an is­sue of con­tention into one of col­lab­o­ra­tion,” US am­bas­sador Ted Osius said at the scene, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment.

The first phase of the clean-up, which also treated 45,000 cu­bic me­ters, was com­pleted in May. “The long-term im­pact of the project will be the elim­i­na­tion of po­ten­tial health risks as­so­ci­ated with dioxin ex­po­sure from the site,” the US em­bassy state­ment said. Osius and Viet­nam’s Vice Min­is­ter of Na­tional De­fense Nguyen Chi Vinh switched on a ther­mal treat­ment sys­tem yes­ter­day at a cer­e­mony in Danang, where they were pho­tographed be­fore a gi­ant mound of cov­ered earth. The ther­mal tech­nol­ogy heats the con­tam­i­nated soil to tem­per­a­tures high enough to break down dioxin into harm­less com­pounds.

Danang Air­base was a key site in the de­fo­liant pro­gram, and much of the 80 mil­lion liters (21 mil­lion gal­lons) of Agent Or­ange used dur­ing “Op­er­a­tion Ranch Hand” was mixed, stored and loaded onto planes there. The air­base is con­sid­ered a “dioxin hotspot”, where con­cen­tra­tions of toxic con­tam­i­nants from Agent Or­ange are well above the glob­ally-ac­cepted max­i­mum stan­dard. Vic­tims groups say rates of cancer, birth de­for­mi­ties and other diox­in­re­lated dis­eases are higher than the na­tional av­er­age around the site. The gov­ern­ment says up to three mil­lion Viet­namese were exposed to Agent Or­ange, and at least 150,000 chil­dren were born with birth de­fects as a result.

He­li­copter miss­ing

In an­other devel­op­ment, a Viet­namese army he­li­copter car­ry­ing three peo­ple dis­ap­peared from radar yes­ter­day, the de­fense min­istry said, spark­ing fears of an­other deadly mil­i­tary avi­a­tion ac­ci­dent in the com­mu­nist na­tion. Eleven peo­ple have been killed in army air ac­ci­dents this year alone, although the coun­try has a strong civil avi­a­tion record. Of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day they were search­ing for the he­li­copter after it dis­ap­peared in the south­ern prov­ince of Ba Ria-Vung Tau with a pi­lot and two trainees on board. “Dur­ing train­ing the he­li­copter lost con­tact north­west of Dinh moun­tain,” the min­istry said in a state­ment on its web­site. — Agen­cies

HANOI PROV­INCE: US Am­bas­sador to Viet­nam Ted Osius (cen­tre left) and Viet­nam’s Deputy De­fense Min­is­ter Gen Nguyen Chi Vinh (cen­tre right) at­tend a cer­e­mony mark­ing the start of the clean-up of dioxin con­tam­i­nated-soil in cen­tral Danang city. — AFP

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