Photo 1: Crew members make emergency repairs of broadcasting components damaged in the storm. Photo 2: Against the backdrop of the transmitter building, some of the equipment wreckage is evident the morning after the weather turned bad. Photo 3: Chief Engineer Klaus Schiller directed the initial emergency response to the storm damage but then was injured in an unrelated accident.
TWR broadcasts from Swaziland are up and running again after crews rushed to make temporary repairs of damage caused by wind and hail.
The storm that struck the TWR transmitter site Sunday, April 19, 2015, disrupted broadcasts. Klaus Schiller, interim chief engineer at the facility, said five feed lines and components of the curtain antenna were damaged. Word of the emergency quickly spread to the global TWR family and beyond in tweets and emails
“We want to thank our heavenly Father and all who prayed,” Schiller wrote in a follow-up email report. “… We managed to reconnect the last feed line, thanks to all who helped and the local electrical company.”
Now in its 41st year of operation, the Swaziland station maintains both shortwave and AM transmitters and sends out programming to much of southern Africa. Among the many languages broadcast from Swaziland are Swahili, Lomwe, Yao, English and French.
Although the emergency has ended, there’s still work to be done, Schiller said.
“Please continue to pray as there is much work to do,” he said. “The feed lines are up but on a temporary measure.”
Broadcast operations continue normally at TWR’s transmitter site in Swaziland even as longer-term repairs are addressed without the full-time involvement of the injured chief engineer.
Wind and hail on April 19, 2015, damaged feed lines and a curtain antenna at the shortwave and AM transmitter facility, and repair teams rushed to ensure that there would be as little disruption as possible to regular broadcast schedules. A crew from the local electrical company also assisted even though it was a national holiday. And making the drive from South Africa to help with the emergency work were James Burnett, TWR Africa technical director, and Mark Blosser, a TWR missionary and former station manager at Swaziland facility who just happened to be visiting from the United States.
Not long after the emergency repairs were made, Chief Engineer Klaus Schiller broke his arm when a ladder slipped out from under him as he picked bananas. He underwent surgery at a hospital in neighboring South Africa and then returned home for ongoing recuperation and temporarily limited physical activity.
Based on an update from Burnett about the storm damage, TWR Africa Communications Manager Andrew Haas reported, “Metal rods that go through the side of the building were yanked right out of the switching unit (which thankfully wasn't severely damaged.) Next time, weak points will be built into the system so if another tree falls over the lines, something can break without causing a massive domino effect.”
Haas added that Tim McElhaney, U.S. stewardship director for TWR, is tentatively scheduled to bring a group of church volunteers to Swaziland in the fall to perform routine maintenance at the facility.