A YOUNG burns victim and a wheelchair-bound woman are among about 300 Vietnamese facing major obstacles in launching damages claims over injuries sustained last year at Whitehead detention centre. The Legal Aid Department has not responded to any of the applications for representation made in the wake of the violent raid on April 7, 1994. Since then, many applicants and potential witnesses have been deported. A Legal Aid spokesman yesterday said the department was 'still seeking counsel opinion on the cases, and therefore no offer of legal aid had so far been made'. However, the South China Morning Post has learned many cases are clear-cut and advice has been received that there is prima facie evidence to take to court. The Legal Aid Department provided no explanation for the delay, even though most applications were made last summer. In respect of applicants and witnesses who had been deported or left voluntarily, the spokesman said: 'They are asked to leave a forwarding address so that they could be contacted later on'. But legal sources claimed it would be impossible to trace such people or to bring them back to complete claims even if they were given legal aid. And the sources say the quality of evidence provided by witnesses after such a long interval would be significantly reduced. Most of the claims involve loss of personal belongings, but several people are seeking compensation for injuries sustained when more than 1,200 officers in riot gear raided Section 7 wielding batons and firing hundreds of tear-gas canisters. The operation, launched before dawn, was aimed at transferring the 1,500 people to the High Island Detention Centre. Almost 200 people sought treatment for burns and other injuries and conditions they claim were a result of the use of tear-gas and pepper-fog machines. The methods used in the operation were criticised in an independent report ordered by Governor Chris Patten. Seven-year-old Vu Thi Thuy Chung was one of two burns victims admitted to hospital after the raid. She spent 19 days in the burns unit of Queen Elizabeth Hospital, being treated for serious injuries to her legs thought to have been caused by a tear-gas canister. A government spokesman confirmed yesterday that the wounds had healed, but the girl was continuing to require occupational therapy and wore a 'pressure garment'. She is still detained at High Island and is described as in a satisfactory condition. Trieu Thi Dung, 28, still experiences pain and fears her imminent return to Vietnam as one of the 400 Section 7 people remaining in Hong Kong will make life even more difficult. Mrs Trieu fell from the roof of a hut during a volley of tear-gas canisters and fractured her back in the most serious incident of the raid. She can walk with assistance and still requires treatment. Visitors who have seen her said she worried that life in a wheelchair with three young children would be difficult for her back home in Vietnam. Not all claims for compensation would have to go before the courts. It is understood that it would be normal for them to be settled out of court using court judgments as a guide for ex-gratia payments.