Munich (pte032/28.03.2003/14:12) - The man who constructed Saddam Hussein's underground bunker beneath a Baghdad palace says it will take 16 Tomahawk Cruise Missiles landing one after the other on exactly the same spot to penetrate the steel and concrete labyrinth.
Bolthole builder Karl Esser, 45, from Munich has been watching the war in Iraq and says the Iraqi dictator is "100 per cent safe" in his creation. Esser takes pride in his building being able to defy all but the heaviest of coalition attacks.
Twenty years ago he was asked by Austrian architect Lorenzo Buffalo to lead the construction team of the Düsseldorf company Boswau and Knauer in constructing the underground hiding place. The companies that built the bunker have since been absorbed by larger groups in Germany http://www.walter-bau.de .
Esser said: "I built atom bomb proof bunkers and was than asked to work on the bunker in Iraq. It was an interest I inherited from my grandmother, Anna Esser, who built many bunkers for the Third Reich and was heavily involved in the Hitler-Bunker in Berlin. Granny Anna was a much respected and very busy bunker builder in those times."
He said he met with Saddam many times after construction got underway in the early 80's, including one three-hour session where the two discussed the plans for the bunker in detail.
Esser explained his faith in his own construction: "If they want to get at Saddam, they would have to level the palace completely, and get rid of the debris. Then they would need to hit the site with their 80-Kilo-Tomahawks 16 times at the same spot to get through. That's 16 times. Then they need to know exactly where he is in the bunker. Is he on the toilet, or in bed? I'm pleased my bunker has proved up to the job."
"The order went out to Germany to construct it because in Iraq in general, and with Saddam in particular, the motto "Made in Germany" - whether it be cars, furniture or bunkers - stood for something," added architect Lorenzo Buffalo.
The bunker was estimated to cost seven million pounds for the concrete and steel alone and codenamed "Project 305".
The final costs however rose to over 60 million pounds: Saddam couldn't resist the gold-inlay on the light switches, the mother-of-pearl toilet roll holders and the marble tiling in the conference room where his Alamo battle for Baghdad would be planned.
Twenty Germans oversaw a construction team of 120 Filipinos and hundreds of local Iraqi labourers. The Germans christened it the "Führerbunker of Baghdad" and it was hidden beneath the swimming pool, walkways and parking places of the presidential palace guesthouse, accessed by an elevator which ferries occupants 100 metres underground.
The Munich company Vereinigte Werkstätten was commissioned to provide all the wood and fittings for the rooms - 1,800 square metres of space in all.
The walls were built to a thickness of nine feet to withstand an atomic bomb of the size that destroyed the city of Hiroshima in the last days of WW2 if it detonated 250 metres away.
The electronics are protected by special insulation to prevent them being destroyed or interrupted by graphite bombs while there is an escape tunnel under the Tigris River protected by steel doors weighing three tons each.
But a worker for Boswau and Knauer said: "Whatever happens to him we are certain of one thing in the American and British attack on Baghdad: the bunker will live through it." (newsfox-special Iraq)(end)
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