Vietnam, US begin historic Agent Orange cleanup
DANANG, Vietnam (AFP) - From deformed infants to grandparents with cancer, families near Vietnam's Danang Airbase have long blamed the toxic legacy of war for their ills. Now after a decades-long wait, a historic "Agent Orange" clean-up is finally beginning.
The base was a key site in the US defoliant program during the Vietnam War, and much of the 80 million litres of Agent Orange used during "Operation Ranch Hand" was mixed, stored and loaded onto planes there.
But on Thursday, the US and Vietnam began a long-awaited joint cleanup effort at the site - using technology which will heat the contaminated soil to temperatures high enough to break dioxin down into harmless compounds.
"During the war, when we lived right by the runway, some nights we would have to cover our mouths because of a strange smell," Danang resident Nguyen Thi Binh, 78, told AFP. Three of Binh's five children are severely mentally and physically disabled. For years she thought this was due to sins committed in a past life, but now believes it could be due to her and her late husband's dioxin exposure.