An elderly woman was killed and five others injured by an old B-40 rocket that exploded in Kompong Thom province on Friday when one of the victims attempted to dismantle it for scrap metal, according to local officials.
Sim Tam, 78, who was sitting near the rocket when it exploded, was hit with shrapnel from the device and died from her wounds on the way to the local hospital, said Brigadier General Hang Thol, provincial military police commander.
“Sim Tam died from serious injuries from the B-40’s shrapnel, and five others, including another woman, were badly wounded. Now they are at the Kompong Thom referral hospital,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Thol said a local man found the old rocket on his farm earlier in the week and had dragged it to his palm juice stand, where he started tapping at the shell in hopes of taking it apart for scrap metal.
He said the man was among the five injured and faulted him for not reporting the rocket to authorities.
“Sampov Meas village was a hot battlefield during the civil war, so there is a lot of UXO [unexploded ordnance] buried in the ground, but the villager who found it did not report it to police or CMAC [the Cambodian Mine Action Center],” said provincial police chief Phan Sopheng.
Mines and UXO have killed or injured more than 64,000 Cambodians since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. Much of it was deployed during the ensuing years of civil war.
Annual casualty figures have fallen dramatically over the years, though old devices continue to kill or injure more than 100 people a year.
According to the government’s latest figures, mines and UXO killed or injured 60 people during the first three months of this year, more than half the 111 casualties recorded in all of 2013.