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Kiwi Engineer in Kabul Bomb Blast

Kiwi Engineer in Kabul Bomb Blast

Maunsell's Senior Electrical Engineer Mike Breckon is shaken but OK this morning after a weekend with more excitement than the rugby finals.

Breckon is leading a team of Maunsell consultant engineers on an Asian Development Bank project to bring electricity into Afghanistan by way of transmission lines from surrounding countries. He was waiting for his evening meal to arrive with two colleagues in the Indian restaurant of the Intercontinental Hotel, Kabul on Saturday night when at 7.30pm, most of the lights went out.

This in itself is not unusual in Kabul, however all were taken completely off guard a few minutes later when there was a huge explosion outside, all the windows were blown in and the room filled with white smoke. One of Breckon's colleagues was blown off his chair, and the others followed him to the floor, yelling for the remaining hotel patrons to do likewise. Breckon and his colleagues had been sitting by the front window of the restaurant, but luckily were saved from serious injury by the heavy curtains, which were drawn at the time.

The group crawled out of the restaurant into the hotel lobby which soon filled with about 60 or 70 people. There was broken glass everywhere but miraculously nobody was hurt. Unbelievably the waiter followed them out ? his only concern payment for the meal, which had not even been served! Breckon's worry at that point was that there could be further explosions. The group was prevented from evacuating the building by staff and later learnt that that the whole area had been secured and vehicles could not enter or leave.

The UN Security declared an alert on the radios which all international personnel carry, and requested that all UN personnel restrict any further movements around the city. Some ISAF military personnel entered the hotel about 9.30pm and advised that the explosion was caused by a remote detonated or timed bomb outside the north face of the hotel. They were going to patrol the surrounding area for the rest of the night so the safest option was to remain in the hotel for the night. Needless to say, nobody got very much sleep.

At day break Sunday morning Breckon got a chance to survey the damage. The north face of the hotel was superficially damaged with ceiling panels and numerous windows blown out. The cause appears to have been a bomb placed on a masonry wall about 30 m in front of the hotel. Breckon's hotel room on the first floor had one third of the windows blown out, and colleagues on the fifth floor had their laptop computers blown off the desks.

This morning Breckon reported back to Maunsell in Auckland "The security situation is quite tense here at the moment - probably the worst since I've been [this is his 9th visit over the last year]." "The UN have issued instructions that there should be no new missions until mid-January because of the forthcoming elections, the targeted attacks against foreign personnel in the south, and concerns about the resurgence of the Taliban factions. We have been instructed to 'keep a low profile' in the meantime." Breckon is due back in New Zealand next week, and has relocated to a Kabul guesthouse in the mean time.

The Intercontinental Hotel sits on a prominent hill in Kabul, right next to where the Constitutional Loya Juga Elections are due to start next month.


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