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Cablegate: Bangladesh Cyclone Sidr Sitrep for November 17

VZCZCXRO9079
OO RUEHCI
DE RUEHKA #1797/01 3211438
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 171438Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5554
INFO RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU IMMEDIATE 9333
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA IMMEDIATE 0974
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 0264
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 2578
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 8142
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 8227
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 1871
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0367
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0550
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 DHAKA 001797

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

PLEASE PASS TO DNI
DEPT FOR SES-O
DEPT FOR SCA/PB, SCA/EX
DCHA/OFDA FOR ROBERT THAYER
AID/W FOR AA MARK WARD AND ANE ANNE DIX
DCHA/FFP FOR MATTHEW NIMS AND PAUL NOVICK
ROME FOR FODAG
BANGKOK FOR RDM/A TOM DOLAN, BOB BARTON
KATHMANDU FOR USAID OFDA BILL BERGER AND SUE MCINTYRE
TREASURY FOR ELIZABETH WEISS AND SUSAN CHUN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL ASEC CASC AMGT SOCI ECON PINR EAGR SENV
BG
SUBJECT: BANGLADESH CYCLONE SIDR SITREP FOR NOVEMBER 17

REF: A) STATE 157623 B) DHAKA 1796 C) DHAKA-WASHINGTON EMAIL SITREPS
OF NOVEMBER 15-16, 2007

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Bangladesh is slowly beginning to assess the
damage caused by Cyclone Sidr. Unofficial estimates of the number
of deaths reached 2,000 by late afternoon November 17. As many as a
million homes and an estimated 250,000 acres of crops may have been
damaged or destroyed. Loss of power has been a major problem
throughout the country, but electricity in Dhaka largely has been
restored. An early report of damage to rural electrical networks
estimates that more than USD 20 million will be required to restore
power outside main cities. Major disruptions to transportation and
communications networks have hindered the ability to assess damage.
The GOB is trying to assess and prioritize needs and respond to the
many offers of assistance that are pouring in. At the request of
Bangladesh's Chief Adviser, the Embassy is preparing a list of
possible areas in which the USG could provide assistance. The
Embassy has not received any requests for assistance from American
citizens in Bangladesh. END SUMMARY.

LOSS OF LIFE AND LIVELIHOOD

2. (U) As of late afternoon local time November 17, the official
death toll from Cyclone Sidr stood at 936, though unofficial reports
indicated the toll was expected to climb past 2,000. According to
the Bangladesh Ministry of Food and Disaster Management (MFDM), it
will take another 2-3 days to get a better estimate of the extent of
damage and number of casualties. While the loss of life appears to
have been mitigated in part by strengthened disaster preparation
(NOTE: Cyclones in Bangladesh with a similar strength to Sidr left
500,000 and 100,000 dead in 1970 and 1991, respectively. END
NOTE.), homes and livelihoods have been devastated. Districts in
the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh were the hardest hit.
Preliminary estimates indicate that as many as one million homes may
have been destroyed and that 250,000 acres of land and crops have
been damaged. There was also a significant loss of livestock,
including fish and seafood, a major export for Bangladesh. As many
as 3 million people were evacuated in advance of the cyclone,
670,000 of whom were accommodated in special cyclone shelters. Many
people have now departed temporary shelters for their homes;
approximately 240,000 are reported to remain in the cyclone
shelters.

LOSS OF POWER

3. (SBU) Large sections of the country are without power. As the
cyclone reached Bangladesh on November 15, the national power grid
was brought down as a precaution. Getting the grid back online has
been a major challenge. Dhaka, the capital city, was only able to
get power restored city-wide late on November 16. Even then,
anecdotal reports indicate that power remains an issue in Dhaka.
(NOTE: Power outages in the diplomatic enclave have been minimal,
and Embassy residences and offices have had no problems running on
generator power when needed. END NOTE.) A lack of power at Zia
International Airport in Dhaka meant that a helicopter returning
from a cyclone assessment late on November 16 had to land without
the aid of runway lights. Much of coastal Bangladesh remains
without power. Rural electrification boards, which have received
large-scale USG assistance in Bangladesh's 36-year history, report
that more than USD 20 million will be required to restore power to
these areas.

DHAKA 00001797 002 OF 004

GOB RESPONSE

4. (SBU) Significant damage to transportation and communication
networks has slowed damage assessment by authorities and
non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Chief Adviser Fakhruddin
Ahmed and Chief of Army Staff General Moeen U. Ahmed traveled by
helicopter November 16 to visit cyclone-affected areas. There are
reports that their helicopter was mobbed by cyclone victims seeking
relief supplies at one stop during the visit. The Bangladesh
military is on the front lines of the current relief efforts.
Emergency supplies are being distributed by air and land, albeit in
a limited fashion. The Government of Bangladesh (GOB) has allocated
95 million taka (about USD 1,376,811) for the 15 affected districts
for use for rescue operations and 3,000 metric tons of rice for
relief operations.

5. (U) The GOB is distributing dry food to most cyclone-affected
districts and by helicopter to remote areas. By noon November 17,
the GOB reported it had completed 12 airlifts of dry food.
According to MFDM sources, there is an urgent need for ready-to-eat
dry food. Ministry sources offered helicopter services to USAID
implementing partners to facilitate distribution of relief
assistance to inaccessible areas. Medical teams are providing
medical care to the injured in the shelters. In total, 732 medical
teams (including military) are working in the affected teams.

USG RESPONSE

6. (SBU) In a November 17 phone conversation with the Charg
d'Affaires a.i., General Moeen welcomed her offer of USG aid, in
particular her suggestion that a U.S. Army medical team already
in-country stand by to provide assistance. Moeen said priority
needs include food, drinking water, shelter materials, blankets,
clothing and medicine. The Chief Adviser noted that food and water
were needed most.

7. (SBU) In response to our query about what USG assistance could
be useful, on November 17 the Chief Adviser requested the CDA a.i.
supply him with a notional list of the kinds of assistance we could
provide. The Embassy is preparing this list, which will be based on
input from USAID and DoD elements at post, and coordinated with
OFDA. The Regional Adviser for the Office of Foreign Disaster
Assistance (OFDA) is expected to arrive in Dhaka late November 17.
She will visit the cyclone-hit region and, in conjunction with the
country team, pinpoint areas for USG assistance. USAID Dhaka is
already beginning to process the USD 100,000 in disaster assistance
granted by OFDA. (Ref A)

8. (U) USAID Implementing Partners Save the Children (Save) and
CARE are working in nine affected districts, Barisal, Patuakhali,
Bhola, Perozpur, Jhalokhati, Borguna, Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat.
Save is deploying two water treatment units to Bhola and Patuakhali
districts that can process 1,500 liters of water per hour. It is
planning to distribute emergency survival packages to 2,500 families
and is also working with the World Food Program to distribute high
energy biscuits to 88,000 families. Save is taking the lead
coordination role for all NGOs operating in the Barisal region.

9. (U) CARE is working in close coordination with the GOB and NGOs
in the Khulna region. On November 18, it will begin to distribute

DHAKA 00001797 003 OF 004


emergency survival packets to 13,000 families in remote areas of
Bagerhat district. These packets include receive plastic sheeting,
drinking water and other basic supplies. Five thousand of these
13,000 families will also receive dry food rations. CARE will
deploy two water treatment units as well.

OTHER DONORS

10. (U) NGOs and diplomatic missions in Bangladesh are also making
assessments and offering assistance. Foreign Adviser Iftekhar
Chowdhury announced he expects the United Nations Development
Program (UNDP) to provide close to USD 6 million in cyclone aid.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
has appealed for USD 3.5 million to assist Bangladesh. The European
Union has pledged 1.5 million Euros. Canada has indicated it will
donate at least 100,000 dollars. The United Nations has provided
nutritional biscuits to feed 400,000 people for three days. BRAC,
one of the largest NGOs in Bangladesh, has earmarked USD 1 million
for cyclone relief and has appealed for contribution of at least USD
1 million more.

11. (U) The World Food Program (WFP) has seven assessment teams in
affected areas. As part of its immediate response, WFP made
available 98 metric tons of high energy biscuits, 18.75 metric tons
of which have already been distributed to 25,000 families in two
districts. Saudi Arabia has provided 7,000 tents. A meeting of
the donor local consultative sub-group on Disaster Emergency
Response has been scheduled for November 18.

PUBLIC OUTREACH

12. (U) USG press statements offering condolences and assistance
were quoted in major Bangla-language newspapers November 17. Local
and international media are starting to make inquiries to the
Embassy about USG assistance, including reports that U.S. Navy ships
are being dispatched to aid in relief efforts. We will continue to
coordinate our public diplomacy efforts with Washington.

EMBASSY OPERATIONS

13. (SBU) Cyclone Sidr has had a minimal impact on Embassy
operations. Backup generators at Mission offices and residences
were in use while power was out in Dhaka, and the generators
continue to be used as power fluctuates, which is occurring a
somewhat higher rate than normal. Internet and television service,
which had been disrupted, is largely restored. The Consular section
has been in communication with American citizens throughout the
country, but has not received any requests for assistance.

COMMENT

14. (SBU) Cyclone Sidr has exacted a heavier toll on livelihood
than on life. While it is fortunate that loss of life appears to be
less than previous cyclones in Bangladesh, millions of survivors
face dire circumstances. In the short term, cyclone victims will
need food, water and shelter. In the long term, victims who already
must struggle to support themselves face even greater economic
hardship. The GOB appears to have responded well thus far to the
crisis. It was active early to spread warnings and aid in
evacuation. It is moving as quickly as possible to respond. The
level of relief the GOB can provide is limited because its resources

DHAKA 00001797 004 OF 004


are limited. Donors will need to be mindful of placing additional
strain on an already over-taxed government infrastructure.

PASI

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