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Cablegate: Trip Report- From Barisal Through Sidrqs Destruction To

VZCZCXRO0459
PP RUEHCI
DE RUEHKA #1933/01 3470406
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 130406Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5802
INFO RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 9446
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME PRIORITY 0446
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK PRIORITY 8332
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA PRIORITY 1077
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0627
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0080
RUEKDIA/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASH DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DHAKA 001933

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SOCI PINR PREL BG
SUBJECT: Trip Report- from Barisal through SidrQs destruction to
Khulna

REF: DHAKA 1921

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Three weeks after cyclone Sidr struck Bangladesh,
the response has transitioned from the critical first phase, which
included U.S. military aircraft assisting in relief supply movement,
to the second phase, which will be more centered on longer-term
rebuilding and economic rehabilitation. After ensuring all U.S.
military personnel safely departed from Barisal after the Civil
Military Operations Center there closed, Emboff and FSNs traveled
west to Khulna, detouring through some of the worst hit areas to
gain first hand information. Confirming previous assessments,
Emboff saw that brick/concrete structures, including cyclone
shelters, had mostly survived; while at seemingly randomly dispersed
location, corrugated iron sheet structures sustained damage ranging
from minor to total destruction. Aid was evident in many areas, as
well as medical care. Fresh water supply was not considered a
problem in the short term, but sanitation and long term solutions
will require substantial rebuilding. Shops and markets had goods on
their shelves, but many interlocutors from both GOB and aid
communities expressed fear that unless the economy is restarted
soon, a Qrelief mindsetQ will arise where standing in line replaces
daily labor as the primary method of supplying individualQs and
familiesQ needs. END SUMMARY

Leg 1 - Barisal city to Pirojpur (western edge of Barisal division)
------------------------------

2. (SBU) Traveling mostly west-southwest, we began by tracing the
northern edge of the most severely effected areas. Some damage was
evident at seemingly random intervals, with certain areas losing
many large trees and almost all corrugated iron sheet dwellings,
while other areas nearby had much less visible damage. At the
Kaukhali ferry crossing immediately east of Pirojpur, one of the
ferries (capable of handling an estimated 10 or 12 vehicles, plus
pedestrians and bicycles) was beached at least 100 feet from the
river. The locals we talked to said that the river rose to 20 feet
above normal, but the shops food shops concentrated at the ferry
landing are in concrete buildings and were not substantially
damaged; they had, however, received government aid. Fishing is
the main activity in the area, and there were some small boats
visible fishing out on the river when we crossed at 0800. Fishing
nets were seen in several locations strung across canals, a good
sign that some economic activity is returning to the area.

3. (SBU) We crossed with various other aid agency representatives on
the same ferry, including "Hands On Disaster Relief," a U.S. based
NGO. Its survey team was coming from Kuakata, on the extreme
southern coast of Barisal division, and the team reported that the
embankment there had sustained substantial damage. Crossing the
river, there was more obvious damage immediately beside the riverQs
west bank, but shortly the damage returned to the same pattern of
patches of serious damage interspersed among patches of little to no
apparent damage.

Leg 2 Q Pirojpur to Morelganj (heading south into the most affected
areas)
------------------------------

4. (SBU) We began to see more aquaculture farms, such as shrimp
hatcheries, as well as regular rice paddies, as we turned south.
When we reached Boloi Bunia Union on the northern edge of Morelganj
upazila, we saw a CARE water purification unit in
operation. According the CARE employee responsible for the unit, it
was delivered the day after the storm and is capable of producing
4,000 liters of water per hour. We also met Union Parishad Chairman
Abdul Haim, believed by all in the village to be the oldest chairman
in Bangladesh at 80 years old. He was personally overseeing
distribution of lime for water treatment and tickets for other
relief materials. He reported that residents are in relatively good
shape, with good NGO activity in the area and the GOB's Vulnerable

DHAKA 00001933 002 OF 003


Group Feeding (VGF) program coming online shortly. Soldiers from
the Bangladesh Army's 55th Division were also present at a nearby
location.

5. (SBU) Continuing south into Morelganj, we met representatives
from the GOB's Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) at the
ferry crossing to Morelganj city. They confirmed that the water
treatment plans supplied by DPHE, CARE, Save the Children, Muslim
Aid, and the Bangladeshi military have alleviated the short term
drinking water problem, but the DPHEQs Pond Sand Filter (PSF)
systems need substantial rebuilding and new tube wells will need to
be drilled. In terms of sanitation, they were very sad to report
that only six months ago this had been a showcase of sanitation,
with 100% of the district certified as covered by sanitary
facilities; now 80% of those are damaged.

6. (SBU) Across the river, in Morelganj city, we visited a
Bangladesh Army medical center and landing site of multiple U.S.
military helicopter relief missions. Major Nasir commands the 10th
Field Ambulance in the 66th Division, deployed from its usual post
in Rajshahi to Morelganj for cyclone response. The medical team
there still sees injuries, fractures and traumas resulting from the
cyclone, but as expected, these are decreasing and regular chronic
complaints are replacing direct cyclone injuries. Major Nasir
showed a well- stocked facility and said he was receiving good GOB
support, but noted a need for vitamins and injectable antibiotics.
He also complained that Sharankhola upazila to the south had half
the population of Morelganj, and while it suffered more destruction,
the number of people affected also should be taken into account when
allocating relief.

Leg 3 Q Morelganj to Sharankhola (furthest south, maximum
destruction)
------------------------------

7. (SBU) Proceeding through the mostly rural area south of Morelganj
city, for the first time we saw a brick building partially
destroyed. The building had been part of a private 'college'
providing elementary and vocational education to 1,100 students.
Approximately 1,500 square feet of what had been corrugated iron
buildings were simply gone, leaving only the foundation slab
behind. The school, on its own initiative, has rigged tents and is
continuing classes and even end of year examinations. The man I
spoke with claimed they have not yet received any GOB aid, either at
the school or at his home, which was also destroyed, beyond a
promise to repair educational institutions. He seemed to be in a
mild state of shock, sitting in what had been the administration
building and far less animated in his speech that ordinary
Bangladeshis.

8. (SBU) As we continued south, we started seeing more of the GOBQs
elevated cyclone shelters, which seemed to have all sustained only
minimal damage. The roads here had a great deal of traffic,
including trucks, various aid agency vehicles, and buses filled with
people; we also passed many trucks filled with goods heading north
as well as south, presumably indicating that some commerce was still
continuing from this area.

Leg 4 Q Sharankhola (southernmost point of our trip)
------------------------------

9. (SBU) We arrived in Sharankhola as Bangladeshi soldiers and a
member of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society worked together to
unload boxes of World Food Program aid that had been transported by
truck from Barisal airport. The boxes were stored, along with other
relief materials, in a complex of buildings which had attracted a
large crowd waiting for relief goods, even though this was only the
storage facility, not an actual distribution site. Proceeding
around the corner from the complex, the contrast was shocking as we
walked into a regular bazaar in full swing, with produce and other

DHAKA 00001933 003 OF 003


merchandise readily available and shoppers making purchases.

10. (SBU) Major Shaheen, the officer of the 55th Division
responsible for that area, agreed that the first phase of the
response to Sidr had been completed and the initial shock largely
had been mitigated. The second phase was now keyed on continuing
relief only to the absolutely distraught, while providing the means
(and encouragement) to the rest of the population to get back to
work. He echoed the sentiment heard from other quarters (Ref A),
and visibly demonstrated for us as we walked from the mass waiting
for handouts to the busy bazaar, that there were people who were
focusing on standing in line for aid instead of working for wages.
The solution, as Major Shaheen saw it, is for income production to
restart quickly to prevent a 'handout culture' from taking hold.
The major said he was coordinating well with various NGOs,
particularly the Red Crescent, BRAC, Rupantor (which receives
funding from USAID and has one of its local citizen committees
active in a nearby Union Parishad) Oxfam, Grameen, Muslim Aid,
Shelter Box (a UK NGO) and others.

Leg 5 Q Sharankhola to Khulna
------------------------------

11. (SBU) Returning from Sharankhola to the main east-west road, we
spoke with a response team from the Far-east Islamic Insurance
Company, Limited. Team members said they insured about 1,000 people
in Sharankhola and that around half had sustained insured losses to
varying degrees. Roads were adequate in all the areas we visited,
partly due to removal of felled trees, evident as far as the western
edge of Bagerhat district, which has been ongoing since Sidr. We
continued to see a wide variety of aid related crews, including both
Islamic and secular agencies, as well as various media
representatives, including an American independent film crew,
throughout the region, even as far west as Khulna.

Comment
-------

12. (SBU) In the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr, it appears that the GOB
and NGO response has met, by and large, the short-term, emergency
needs of most people. The medium- and long-term needs, rebuilding
the economy and returning people to normal lives, is just beginning.
The success of the cyclone shelters is likely to drive demands for
even more to be built, and for those new shelters to be capable of
protecting livestock as well as people. Donor synchronization, at
all levels, is still very much a key requirement. There are many
actors present in the field whose actions have the potential to
duplicate and interfere with each other if left un-coordinated.

PASI

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