UK & World News
US Begins Clean-Up Of Agent Orange In Vietnam
The United States has begun cleaning up the contamination left from the toxic chemical defoliant Agent Orange used by the Americans in the Vietnam War.
The move comes nearly four decades after US military planes first sprayed Vietnam's jungles with the defoliant to strip away forest cover.
The spraying took place over a 10-year period and was intended to expose communist troops and destroy their supplies during the conflict, which ended in 1975.
Vietnamese and US officials launched the project to clean up deposits of the chemical at a former American airbase in Danang, in central Vietnam, where millions of gallons of Agent Orange were mixed, stored and loaded onto planes.
Speaking at Thurday's launch ceremony attended by Vietnam's deputy minister of defence Nguyen Chi Vinh, US Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear, described the clean-up as a "historic milestone".
"We are both moving earth and taking the first steps to bury the legacies of our past," he said.
The US government is providing $41m (£26.1m) towards the project, which will reduce the contamination level in 73,000 cubic metres of soil by late 2016.
The contaminated soil and sediment will be excavated and heated in a pile structure to temperatures high enough to break the dioxin down into harmless compounds.
Since 2007, the US has given about $60m (£38.2m) for environmental restoration and social services in Vietnam, but this is its first direct involvement in an Agent Orange clean-up.
Exposure to the chemical has been linked with respiratory cancer and birth defects.