When Cyclone Winston, the worst storm ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, tore through the Pacific in February 2016, it left dozens of people dead and tens of thousands homeless and without water across the archipelago nation of Fiji.

A European student at a leading British university was undertaking fieldwork on one of Fiji’s 300 islands at the time. Most of her clothes, equipment and research were destroyed in the cyclone and she sustained several minor injuries.

With the island’s communications links and infrastructure severely affected and only limited official help getting through, she was keen to avoid being a burden on the local community, which was struggling to cope with the devastation.

Having been provided with the Drum Cussac Global Operations Centre emergency number by the university before embarking on her trip overseas, she contacted us for assistance.

Our response

We answered the call for help, mobilising our global network of local, pre-vetted consultants to respond. We assigned a male consultant and a female chaperone to the case and they undertook a challenging journey, travelling over land and by air to reach the remote village where the student had taken shelter.

Our consultants then escorted her across the archipelago, eventually arriving at an airport on a neighbouring island, where international flights out of the area were still in operation.

Behind the scenes, we handled the administration involved in hiring vehicles, booking hotels and flights, and completed all the travel paperwork on the evacuee’s behalf. We arranged a telephone assessment of her medical condition to check she was fit for both short- and long-haul travel and did everything necessary for her comfort. She had been unable to contact her next of kin, so we kept them in the picture throughout her journey.

The outcome

Within three days of the Drum Cussac team arriving on the island where the student had been conducting her research, she had entered European airspace and was on her way home.

Key actions

  • Prompt response by the local Drum Cussac team
  • Monitoring of evacuee’s location and two-hourly welfare calls until help
  • Everything necessary supplied for the evacuee’s comfort
  • All parties kept informed throughout
  • Contingency planning and reviewing of alternative methods of extraction at all stages (‘Plan B’)

Find out more about our Political and Natural Disaster Evacuation service.