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Cablegate: Managua Sitrep 3: Hurricane Felix Usg Relief

VZCZCXRO0486
OO RUEHLMC
DE RUEHMU #2044/01 2500259
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 070259Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1191
RUMIAAA/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO IMMEDIATE 4708
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE 0110
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK IMMEDIATE 0071
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 0331
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORP WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MANAGUA 002044

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN FEELEY AND LERSTEN
DEPT ALSO FOR WHA/FO AND CA/OCS
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO USAID/W, USAID/DCHA AND USAID/OFDA
USAID/W FOR A/AID HFORE
USAID/OFDA FOR KLUU, AFERRERA, ACONVERY, RTHAYER, AND
SBISWAS
USAID/DCHA FOR MHESS AND GGOTTLIEB
SOUTHCOM PLEASE PASS TO JTF-BRAVO
SOUTHCOM FOR SCJ3--LTC ALEXANDER
NSC FOR ALVARADO AND TSHORTLEY
SAN JOSE FOR OFDA SENIOR REGIONAL ADVISOR
GENEVA FOR NKYLOH
USUN ROME FOR RNEWBERG
USUN FOR TMALY
BRUSSELS FOR PLERNER
ROME PLEASE PASS TO USUN ROME

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PGOV MOPS AEMR KPAO CASC NU
SUBJECT: MANAGUA SITREP 3: HURRICANE FELIX USG RELIEF
RESPONSE UNDERWAY

REF: A. MANAGUA 2032

B. MANAGUA 2026 (NOTAL)
C. MANAGUA 2025 (NOTAL)

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. We continued our field assessments
today. The hardest hit area seems to be a triangular-shaped
area (Puerto Cabezas-Sandy Bay-Rosita) where the devastation
has been extreme. Sandy Bay and surrounding communities were
virtually destroyed. Interior towns of Bonanza, Siuna and
Rosita didn't show the signs of extensive damage that had
been initially reported. Similarly, while the town of Waspam
and most of the communities along the Rio Coco do show signs
of flooding, there weren't the signs of extreme storm damage
that had been reported immediately after the Hurricane.
Today we received additional U.S. military assets in the form
of a command element from Joint Task Force-Bravo and the USS
Wasp, carrying six helicopters. The first USAID/OFDA charter
flight arrived this evening and tomorrow we will begin our
distribution activities to affected areas, beginning in Sandy
Bay and surrounding communities. The government raised the
death toll to 24 people. Public Affairs released a press
statement indicating the U.S. assistance totals more than USD
403,000, not including DOD assets that are engaged in the
relief effort. END SUMMARY.

CURRENT SITUATION
-----------------

2. (U) AFFECTED PERSONS: Today Nicaragua's Civil Defense
Authority, the National System for Disaster Prevencion
Mitigation and Assistance (SINAPRED), raised the number of
confirmed fatalities from 4 to 24 today. SINAPRED is now
also reporting that the total number of people affected is
35,000; about 13,500 of which were evacuated prior to the
storm.

3. (SBU) AERIAL OBSERVATIONS: Today, a U.S. military officer
flew over large portions of the Northern Atlantic Region in a
C-12 and provided the below observations about various areas
in the RAAN. It appears that the greatest damage occurred in
a westward-pointing, triangle-shaped area between Puerto
Cabezas and Sandy Bay and along the east-west road towards
the interior community of Rosita. Sandy Bay and coastal
communities were demolished, as were interior towns along the
Rosita-Puerto Cabezas road. (NOTE: These observations
pertain primarily to visible signs of hurricane damage, and
are not evaluations about economic or agricultural impact of
the hurricane. END NOTE.)

--SANDY BAY AND ENVIRONS: Sandy Bay, where Felix made landfall, has suffered extreme damage, almost completely destroyed. The same was true for the coastal communities to the north and to south down to Puerto Cabezas. There was widespread coastal flooding and all trees in the area had been knocked down.

--PUERTO CABEZAS AND WAWA: We have previously provided our assessments of damage in Cabezas. From the air, the town of Wawa, south of Cabezas, did not show visible signs of damage.

--PUERTO CABEZAS-ROSITA ROAD: Evidence of the extreme destruction continued along the east-west dirt road between Puerto Cabezas and Rosita. While Rosita itself didn't show dramatic visible signs of damage, all the towns and a large swathe of trees along the road moving east from Rosita to the coast had been leveled. The road itself was in use today by a few buses and trucks; however the bridge across the Wawa River was totally gone and people were using a ferry to cross the swollen river at that point. Although the water level in the Wawa River was very high, it was still within its banks.

--ROSITA-BONANZA-SIUNA: Like Rosita, the towns of Bonanza and Siuna and surrounding areas did not show dramatic, visible signs of storm damage.

--WASPAM AND THE RIO COCO AREA: The town of Waspam and communities along the Rio Coco--from San Carlos, through Waspam, towards Cabo Gracias a Dios on the coast--did not show dramatic signs of storm damage. There was some evidence of flooding, particularly for dwellings nearest the river.

--WASPAM-PUERTO CABEZAS: We have not yet done assessment flights along the north-south road below Waspam down to Santa Maria and Sisin. However, based on observations of the last two days, this area was in the direct path of Felix, and like Sandy Bay is likely to have suffered very severe damage.

CONSULAR: DISCUSSIONS WITH EUROPEANS
------------------------------------

4. (SBU) ConGen met with consular representatives from 10
European embassies to exchange information on expatriate
casualties and requests for assistance. All reported similar
scenarios -- very small or no expatriate communities with
those living in the affected areas desiring to remain in
place to assist with relief efforts. ConGen provided a copy
of our September 4 warden message which advised Amcits to
defer non-essential travel to the region because of access
problems and degraded infrastructure. The message also
warned about the potential spread of waterborne diseases, as
well as life-threatening flash floods and mudslides that
could occur well-inland many days after the hurricane's
landfall.

USG PLANNING AND RESPONSE
-------------------------

5. (SBU) The Embassy Hurricane Working Group met this afternoon. We participated in one Washington-organized teleconference today. The JTF-Bravo command element arrived in country as well and began standing up a command and control center in Puerto Cabezas. The USAID/OFDA field team convened a meeting with SINAPRED to inform them about our planned distribution activities to the affected areas. The team told SINAPRED officials that we planned to begin distribution of our relief supplies on September 7 at 0700 local time. The initial distribution will be to Sandy Bay and surrounding communities using helicopters from the USS WASP. The first of two USAID/OFDA commercial charter flights carrying relief supplies arrived in Puerto Cabezas late today (at 1800 local). The second is scheduled to arrive on Friday afternoon. The total value of USG assistance (cash and supplies) to date is roughly USD 403,000 not including the value of U.S. military assets involved in the effort. Based on revised needs assessments, USAID/OFDA has requested an additional 800 rolls of plastic for temporary shelter (bringing the total to 1000 rolls.)

PUBLIC DIPLOMACY OUTREACH
-------------------------

6. (U) During a public event this morning, the Ambassador
responded to media questions about U.S. assistance by
pointing out our response has been "rapid and massive." Our
press release today included his comments as well as
catalogued the volume of assistance we have provided so far,
including more than $400,000 worth of cash and supplies and
the arrival of an additional JTF-B helicopter, DAO Honduras
C-12, and the USS Wasp with its six helicopters. We will be
sending a press officer out to Puerto Cabezas to prepare for
the Ambassador's projected trip there this weekend and to
help manage the growing presence of local, U.S. and
international media representatives in Puerto Cabezas seeking
to cover the story. Coverage in local Nicaraguan media has
been generally positive, including video of President Ortega
speaking with Embassy military personnel in Puerto Cabezas
upon his arrival there yesterday.

OTHER FOREIGN ASSISTANCE
------------------------

7. (SBU) Since the disaster began, we have had regular
discussions with diplomatic and international organization
colleagues regarding relief assistance. SINAPRED has now
taken control of the daily afternoon meeting between UN, EU
and other (mostly European) diplomats to coordinate relief
assistance. The UN has announced a flash appeal for $1.3
million USD to cover urgent needs. Aside from a Honduran
C-130 on Wednesday, there has been very little assistance
flowing into the country. This afternoon President Ortega
did greet a Venezuelan aircraft in Managua, which appeared to
off-load a few boxes of relief supplies and a vehicle,
perhaps an ambulance. A few Caribbean nations have also send
supplies. It seems that most other potential donors that
have been able to marshall donations, haven't yet been able
to get those donations flowing.
TRIVELLI

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