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Schoolboy loses legs in explosion

A 16 year old Pretoria boy lost both his legs after a home experiment went horribly wrong. Waldo van der Westhuizen, of Menlo Park High School in Pretoria, South Africa, had been mixing chemicals in his room when there was a reaction, followed by an explosion. Doctors amputated both his legs just below the knees.

The incident had happened just after 4 pm. The boy and his brother had been alone at home. “He was in his room busy mixing chemicals when he apparently put the wrong chemicals together and it exploded”. Waldo's younger brother, Renier, was only slightly injured. Captain Deon Stidwell, of the Explosives Unit, said they did not believe that the boy was trying to make a bomb. “He is a young boy with a vivid imagination who liked to play with chemicals”. Waldo's mother confirmed he was interested in science and said he did a lot of experiments at home. It is believed he was busy with an experiment, which he wanted to demonstrate to other pupils at school. Police could not confirm if the recipe Waldo was using came off the internet. “There are a lot of chemistry books inside the house, but this type of [bomb] recipe is widely available on the internet”, Stidwell said (Cape Argus (Cape Town), September 2001). (Contributed by Nelmarie du Toit.)

Children in France urged to turn in toy guns

As a sign of solidarity with children in war zones, children in France are being urged to turn in their toy guns, the BBC reported on November 14. The non-profit group Medecins du Monde is calling on the country's four million children between the ages of 7 and 12 to give up their plastic guns as a symbolic gesture. The effort is aimed at raising children's understanding of war and making French children aware of how fortunate they are compared with children who experience war for real. “Children should try to do something that adults couldn't do in reality—to accept and be aware of the suffering of people and to try to do something about it”, said Cristalle Boulanger of Medecins du Monde. The toys guns that are turned in will be made into a sculpture that will form a signpost pointing to different conflict zones, including Kabul and Sarajevo (from www.jointogether.org). (Contributed by Les Fisher.)

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