About the Author: Steve Royster serves as the Spokesman for the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs.VIEW PHOTOSCyclone Nargis struck Burma this weekend with winds of 120 miles per hour lasting for 10 hours. The Category 4 storm left over 22,000 dead and widespread devastation in its wake.
When a crisis like this strikes around the world, the Department of State’s first thought is for the safety of American citizens. As the storm brewed offshore, colleagues at the American Embassy in Rangoon issued two messages to Americans in country with advice on how to prepare for Nargis.
When the storm hit on May 2, electricity and phone lines went down throughout the country, heightening the challenge of accounting for the hundreds of American citizens living in and visiting Burma. Embassy personnel communicated through radios, since mobile phone service was sporadic and unreliable. They contacted hotels and schools in rain-drenched efforts to locate Americans. Our staff told Americans how to find critical necessities -- food, fuel, water – and also had information on flight availability at the international airport, so citizens who wished to could leave Burma for safer, drier ground.
Colleagues at our Embassy in Rangoon, both American and Burmese, were watching out for Americans even as the cyclone was threatening their own homes. When we’re in the field, we all know that helping Americans is part of the job. That is especially clear during a crisis like Cyclone Nargis.
Crises like these are important reminders why Americans should register their travel abroad with the Department of State. When an emergency strikes, Americans in country, whether residents or visitors, who have registered can be contacted swiftly by the Embassy with information and other support for their safety. Registration also means you will receive notices and travel warnings prior to and during your trip.