More than 100,000 Vietnamese have been killed or injured by land mines or other abandoned explosives since the Vietnam War ended nearly 40 years ago, and it will take decades more to clear all of the country, officials said Monday.
"The war's painful legacy, which includes hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs and unexploded ordnance, continues to cause painful casualties every day," Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told a United Nations-sponsored conference on ways to deal with the problem.
Dung said 42,132 people have been killed and 62,163 others wounded by land mines, bombs and other explosives since the war ended in 1975. The United States used about 16 million tons of bombs and ammunition while allied with the former South Vietnam government, which was defeated by northern communist fighters who reunified the country.
U.S. Ambassador David Shear told the conference that the United States has provided $62 million to help Vietnam cope with "this painful legacy."
"Our efforts to help Vietnam deal with this difficult problem have helped build the mutual trust and understanding between the U.S. and Vietnam that has allowed our bilateral relationship to flourish," he said.
Bui Hong Linh, vice minister of labor, war invalids and social affairs, said explosives remain on about 16 million acres (6.6 million hectares) of land, or more than one-fifth of the country.
He said only 740,000 acres (300,000 hectares) or 5 percent of the contaminated area has been cleared and a recently approved government plan calls for clearance of an additional 1.2 million acres (500,000 hectares) that would cost $595 million in the next five years.