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Living with the bomb

A voice from the radio counts down: Neung! Song! Sam! A huge reverberating explosion shakes the ground and echoes off the surrounding mountains followed by a rush of air. A 1000lb guided bomb has just exploded nearby.

The two hundred people of Phanop, a village in Laos, have cowered under a rocky overhang to protect themselves from shrapnel as a Mines Advisory Group (MAG) team clear the area of unexploded ordnance (UXO) with a controlled explosion. This is the very spot where the villagers spent much of their time between 1964 and 1970 to hide from daily American air attacks. Today, though the children are still a little scared, the villagers know that the sound of an exploding bomb means survival. Decades on, Laos is still living with the effects of the Vietnam war. Millions of bombs were dropped by US aircraft in Laos in an attempt to destroy the supply lines of North Vietnamese forces. Many of the bombs remain deadly, with frequent accidents involving UXO. At the same time, the ingenuity of the local people has transformed the detritus of war, adapting it for multitudinous everyday uses.
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