A new suspension footbridge
Lt. Pedro Fernández Vicente
First published in
SFOR Informer#137, April 25, 2002
The French Engineer Platoon (FEP) of the French Battle
Group (FRBG) built a suspension footbridge over the Neretva
River in April. This bridge will join the villages of Djajici
(South bank of the Neretva) and Spiljani (North bank). Time
on the road will be reduced by more than an hour; getting
from one village to the other will now take less than a quarter
of an hour.
Djajici - A little suspension footbridge, which joins the
villages of Djajici and Spiljani, was another victim of the
war. For more than five years only four heavy metal wires
remained as the solitary link between the two banks of the
Neretva. This situation, however, changed last April, due
to the work of the FEP of the 19th Régiment du Génie.
Rebuilding the bridge is the first part of a CIMIC operation
in which the FRBG, and the European Union are involved; the
second part will be the rebuilding of the Spiljani school.
Plan of work
"After the initial reconnaissance, we made the decision
that we couldn't use any of the old metal wires and started
planning our work. The first stage was to remove all the old
cables, except one; this one was employed to launch the five
new heavy metal slings. When we had this new cable over the
river, we proceeded to anchor it to the pylon on the right-bank.
The next stage was to reinforce the pylons, which were two
old metal structures. Afterwards, we tightened the cables.
Due to limited space we had to use two vehicles. We parked
them on the road parallel to the river, we fixed a pulley
to the truck parked in front of the bridge and we pulled with
the Armoured Personal Carrier, in order to obtain enough tautness
in the wires.
After anchoring them the longer phase began: laying the surface
of the bridge. This consisted of a large number heavy planks
anchored to three cables through five fixed points, covering
all the bridge's surface. The last stage was to improve the
access to the bridge, making steps and spreading a layer of
stones on the access paths," said Lt. David Gomez, leader
of French engineer platoon.
More problems than expected
Staff Sgt. Pascal Desremaux, deputy of the French Engineer
platoon, underlined: "We planned to finish the work in
three weeks, however, due to the bad weather with continuous
rains in this period, we were delayed by a week. We had a
really awful surprise the second week of April, when a big
rock detached itself, falling onto our dining tent and destroying
it. We were very lucky because there was nobody inside at
that time. After that, and for safety reasons, we had to move
our camp nearer to the river, to Spiljani School."
"We have been working through the French Area of Responsibility
for four months, but this labour has really been special for
us. We have built up a very good relationship with the population
of Spiljani and Djaciji. We built a physical bridge for them;
with their friendship, they built an emotional bridge, which
will link our heart to this village forever. We really felt
love during our labour here" concluded Gomez.
Nations of SFOR: France