The eye of the storm
In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis swept through Burma, leaving destruction in its wake. It caused significant damage to the British Embassy in Rangoon and cut off its communications with the outside world.
As the technical specialist for that region, the moment the airport re-opened, I flew from Bangkok to Rangoon. I was able to restore access to embassy communications, enabling staff to continue with their responsibilities and restore some sort of normality to the Embassy. Within a week I was joined by Ian, an FCO Services civil engineer. He assessed the damage to the buildings, which had been made worse by flooding and falling trees, and got straight to work organising structural repairs.
An embassy without communication is an embassy that is unable to fulfil its role. That's why it was essential to have an engineer on site so soon. With a standby generator as the only source of electricity, we restored the FCO phone network and set up two PCs that provided essential access for the Ambassador and his staff to the IT systems. With the help of two gardeners and an embassy electrician, we dismantled and rebuilt the damaged radio repeater tower, allowing staff to use radios and mobile phones to carry out vital tasks. With communications restored, the embassy team could get back to work and start arranging for aid to get to the worst-hit areas in the countryside.