The Canals of Banja Luka

Capt. Vance White
First published in
SFOR Informer#134, March 14, 2002

It rained all day. And then it rained all night. When the men and women at the Banja Luka Metal Factory (BLMF) awoke on the morning of February 19, they looked out on a knee-deep lake, and they were in the middle of it.

Banja Luka - It poured into the headquarters of the Dutch Contingent, but other offices and buildings were saved by the fast actions of duty personnel who worked in the early morning gloom to build sandbag barriers.

Surprise
"I was totally surprised by the situation when the guard platoon woke me up to deal with the problem," said Capt. Jean-Marc Guerette, the duty officer, who was roused at 5 am. "After we got the guard platoon distributing sandbags, it was really amusing to see the expressions and actions of everyone as they came out of their rooms and tried to make their way to breakfast."
Using chairs as stilts, vehicles as bridges and ferries, and large plastic bags as hip waders were just some of the imaginative ways people tried to avoid getting wet. Most people, civilian employees and military alike, had a good laugh at the experience.

Amsterdam or Venice
Some of the soldiers thought the roads looked more like the canals in Amsterdam and Venice. Perhaps all the water made it feel like home for the Dutch personnel stationed in BLMF and the Italian Carabinieri of the Multinational Specialised Unit and the other units who, the day before, deployed to Banja Luka for Exercise Joint Resolve 25 (about 500 personnel in all).
The flood, which was partially attributed to a blocked culvert in the drainage system near camp, didn't actually last very long. By late afternoon, most of the water had drained away, leaving most of the roads almost dry before evening set in. Although not a common occurrence, a flood of similar proportions dampened spirits at BLMF in 1996.
In the end, not much damage was done. But it was close. Another hour of rain, another few centimetres, and it would have been a different story.

Related links: Miscellaneous
Nations of SFOR: UK

 

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Photo: Cpl. Brad Chappell

'I will get to work and I will keep my feet dry!' A British officer improvises a 'river' crossing.


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Photo: MCpl Sylvain Bourget

The Royal Engineers must have been busy, so British soldiers improvised their own 'bridge'.


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Photo: MCpl Sylvain Bourget

The main gate to Camp Dragocaj, Banja Luka Metal Factory, under water.


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Photo: Maj. Tony Keene

We all know Kiwis can't fly - but they can wade. New Zealand Captain John Harvey was not too proud to bare all - well, at least his legs - to get to breakfast. (He did get dressed before he ate).