Demolition Men

Lt. Pedro Fernández Vicente
First published in
SFOR Informer#135, March 28, 2002

From Feb. 18 to March 3, a Spanish Engineer Company belonging to MND-SE Divisional Engineers carried out the difficult demolition of a rundown building. This building was located on the former confrontation line in the centre of the city. In this way MND-SE answered a request from the Mayor of "Grad Mostar."

Mostar - First of all, an agreement was signed between the town and MND-SE. Then technical reconnaissance was done in January. As a result of the recces the conclusion was reached that "the demolition was really dangerous because the building was higher than the engineer safety limits; but engineers could make it little by little." In February, the divisional engineer company had the difficult task of demolishing the rundown building.
A difficult task
"Before beginning the demolition the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team inspected the building for Unexploded Ordinances (UXO) three times. It was difficult to be sure that there were no UXO under the large quantity of debris. The EOD team was present during all our work. They found some mortar shell tails and other ammunitions," commented Capt. Rafael García Alcazar, Chief of the Engineer Company.
"We had to solve three new technical concerns. First of all, the building was right next to a new dwelling. This point limited our free action. Secondly, the height of the building was two floors higher than our machine was able to pull down; and finally, the building was in a very poor condition," underlined Alcazar.
At the safety limit
"Our plan consisted of anchoring metal slings in the many walls of the building and pulling on them. We demolished it, step by step, wall by wall and floor by floor. In this way the demolition was always under control and the problem was reduced by calculating the direction of the pull. The problem of how to fix the sling to the wall was solved thanks to the determination and courage of Staff Sgt. Portillo," said Alcazar.
"My work was to fix the metal sling in the building. In order to do it, we had to design a cage to be adapted on the crane. The building structure was really simple: it consisted of four walls of stone encircled by a reinforced concrete belt at each floor. I had to pass over this reinforced concrete belt and do a loop through the windows. There was some risk due to the weight of each metal sling, more than twenty-five kilos, added to the poor condition of the wall. I had to work so closely to it. Each time that I threw a sling the possibility existed of it breaking the structure. And inside the cage you can't go anywhere," said Staff Sgt. Mariano Portillo Tarragona.
More difficulties than expected
"Mostar City hall provided two police officers to control five different pedestrian avenue directions. This created a new focus on safety problems. We were involved in a task of public safety. If (the police had not helped) we wouldn't have been able to finish the demolition," noted Lt. José López Herranz.
"After demolishing the second floor, the task was turned into a simple work of demolition and removal of debris. In total we removed more than one thousand six hundred cubic metres of rubble," concluded Alcazar.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Spain

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Photos: Spanish Engineer Coy

When the metal slings are fixed in the wall, the next problem is to calculate the pull direction.

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There is not lot of space to evade debris inside the cage.

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The building was in such poor condition that it collapsed quickly.

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The building was next to a new dwelling.

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Staff Sgt. Portillo inside the cage, which was designed by engineers, is taking the metal sling.