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When 450,000 l of water seep in the ground

Around 450,000 litres of water leaked out unnoticed overnight in Inwil school in Baar (canton of Zug). Half of this seeped into the subfloor and into the insulation. Using special devices, extra power and lots of empathy, Helvetia claims exert Walter Strickler overcame the challenge.

13 September 2017, author: Linda Zampieri, photos: made available

When head teacher Philippe Lau decided to check the display boards in the school quickly during the autumn holidays, he got a big surprise: the entire basement storey was ankle-deep in water. “At first I thought a bit of water had leaked out during cleaning. It was only after a few seconds that I grasped that the entire storey was under water.” One of the first people on site was Silvio Speri, who is responsible for property maintenance for the municipality of Baar: “I first turned off the water supply and alerted the fire brigade. Then it was a question of bringing as much as possible to dry ground.” Two kindergartens and several workrooms and craft rooms are accommodated in the basement.

Horror at second glance

Once the fire brigade had left, Helvetia claims expert Walter Strickler and external buildings expert Roger von Euw were able to look around. “We knew that a good 450,000 litres of water had leaked out and that the fire brigade had only pumped out part of this. It quickly became evident to us that the difference, amounting to around 200,000 litres of water, must have penetrated the floor structure”, explains Walter Strickler. It was also clear that the task of drying the place out would not be easy given the magnitude. “Luckily we were able to call on building manager Daniel Widmer. I would never have managed alone”, says Silvio Speri. Widmer Partner Baurealisation AG was responsible for the full renovation of the school seven years ago and so was optimally acquainted with the building’s structure and materials.

Water removal using a vacuum

However, the experts were unable to get going immediately. “We have 300 children going in and out. It was important to me that the school could continue to operate smoothly despite the imminent work”, explains head teacher Lau. With this in mind, new rooms were created for the kindergarten children in the upper stories using partition walls. The schoolchildren had to attend handicraft lessons in another school building. The huge job of drying got underway in the Christmas holidays. Holes were bored in the ground in various places, and hoses were placed in these. Using a vacuum, water could then be removed from the ground. “These devices used an unbelievable amount of electricity. This meant that a separate power line had to be brought to the school from the transformer station located 200 metres away”, explains Silvio Speri.

No debate with respect to numbers

But what was it that caused all the damage? The guilty party was a fire extinguisher point that had been installed during the full renovation. “We were able to ascertain that two parts of a pipe that should have been joined tightly together had come apart. We can only speculate on the cause of this”, explains Roger von Euw. “Even though a fault in the extinguisher system cannot be ruled out completely, Helvetia is bearing the cost of the damage”, says Walter Strickler. The total claims currently stand at around 600,000 Swiss francs. Head teacher Lau and Silvio Speri are very satisfied: “As we got the school into tiptop condition just a short time ago, we didn’t want a piecemeal solution. Walter Strickler accepted this immediately and arranged everything so that the children have a perfectly renovated school again.”

Walter Strickler

Walter Strickler

Walter Strickler has worked as a claims expert at Helvetia Insurance since April 1999. He was responsible for case management for Inwil school. This involved calling in experts and assessing insurance cover and compensation payments.

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