Clearers also at risk

The uniforms worn by the Land Mine Clearing Brigade (TENX) make them look like robots. Proceeding in single file, they seem to be walking a tightrope, a white line across the minefield indicating the safe area. The mine clearer uses a detector, sweeping it back and forth as he walks forward; when the sensor indicates the presence of a mine, he begins to move almost in slow motion. In the 53 years since the brigade was formed, 31 soldiers have been killed and another 18 seriously injured in the course of their work. «Vangelis was one of the most experienced,» said Dimitris, the corporal, referring to Vangelis Xenakis, who was killed two years ago. The mines are buried in the field; when stepped on, they jump about a meter into the air exploding like an umbrella, hitting everything in a radius of about 10 meters at a speed of five kilometers a second. No protective clothing can stop shrapnel from hitting the body.