Sarajevo Tunnel - Anatomy of The Tunnel

Anatomy of The Tunnel

The tunnel consists of 160 meters of covered trenches on the Dobrinja side, 340 meters of covered trenches on the Butmir side, and 340 meters of actual tunnel under the airport runway. On the Dobrinja side, the average height of the tunnel was 1.6 meters (excluding the height of the iron reinforcements) and averaged 0.8 meters in width for the top half and 1 meter in width for the bottom half of the tunnel. On the Butmir side, the tunnel was slightly higher, 1.8 meters, excluding the wood reinforcements. The width on the Butmir side was the same as that of the Dobrinja side. There was also a section entitled the ‘reduced level entrance’. referring to a 30 meter portion on the Dobringja side that was the deepest and most difficult stretch of the tunnel. At its deepest point, the tunnel was 5m below the airport runway.

The entrance on the Dobrinja side was the garage of an apartment building. The entrance on the Butmir side was a nondescript house near the airport belonging to the Kolar family. Both entrances were under close guard and rigged by trenches manned by Bosnian troops.

At first the tunnel was a simple, muddy path in which supplies had to be carried by hand or on the backs of soldiers. Less than a year after it was created, however, a small railway track was laid and small carts were built to transport supplies through the tunnel. The final product of the tunnel also included a 12-megawatt voltage cable, pumps for pumping underground waters, an oil pipe, and permanent lighting.

There were two major problems with the tunnel. The first was flooding by underground waters which could get rise to waist deep. The second was air quality. The tunnel had no ventilation and consequently, everyone entering the tunnel was forced to wear a mask.

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