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Cablegate: Hue Flood Aftermath: Large Agricultural Losses but No

VZCZCXRO1938
OO RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #1240 3481140
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O P 141140Z DEC 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3454
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2373
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA PRIORITY
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3673

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 001240

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS
TREASURY FOR SCHUN
HHS/OSSI PASS TO OGHA (WSTIEGER/LVALDEZ/CHICKEY)
CDC FOR OGHA (SBLOUT/KMCCALL)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO PGOV ECON EAGR SENV CASC VM
SUBJECT: HUE FLOOD AFTERMATH: LARGE AGRICULTURAL LOSSES BUT NO
EPIDEMIC

REF: A) HANOI 1929; B) HANOI 1924

1. (U) Summary. In the aftermath of the November floods that
ravaged central Vietnam, effective co-operation between
provincial health agencies and financial and food aid from the
central government were essential to stabilizing
flood-traumatized Thua Thien Hue province. Local officials
assess that adequate supply of medical necessities (vaccines and
disinfectants) and pro-active public health strategies (e.g.,
disinfecting railroad stations) have to date averted a major
health catastrophe in the region. End Summary.

Disaster-Prone Topography, Climate, and Demographics
--------------------------------------------- -------
2. (U) The five meters (almost 200 inches) of annual rainfall in
the western highlands of Vietnam's Thua Thien Hue province
produces a massive runoff that is exacerbated by the steep
gradient of the region's rivers in their short 80 km (50 miles)
descent to the coastal lagoon system. The region's 22,000
hectares (54,000 acres) of lagoons, with only two outlets to the
sea, function as enormous catch basins for flood runoff
containing human and animal waste, carrion, and decaying plant
matter. Hue city is a major tourist destination and the
country's main rail and road arteries bisect the province,
heightening the threat posed by epidemics.

3. (U) Health workers from the Thua Thien Hue Province
Department of Health (DoH) and the Preventive Medicine Center
(PMC) told DPO and EconOff November 29 that five waves of
flooding compelled a range of public health efforts. Since only
a little more than half of rural residents had access to clean
water, preventing water-borne disease epidemics was the primary
concern. Authorities administered oral cholera vaccine to
350,000 high-risk flood victims, especially those living near
the lagoon system, and provided 10,000 liters of chloramine
solution to disinfect contaminated wells. To forestall the
spread of disease, mobile health teams staffed by DoH and PMC
workers decontaminated bus and train stations filled with
stranded travelers. To date the central government has provided
the province with 65 billion VND (approximately four million
USD) and 2500 tons of rice for flood mitigation efforts.

4. (U) Officials from the provincial Department of Agriculture
and Rural Development (DARD), the Steering Committee for Flood
and Storm Control and the Animal Health Bureau (AHB) described
agricultural losses, which include 1000 tons of rice, 300 tons
of peanuts, 1200 pigs, and fifteen thousand poultry. While the
fall harvest is over, it will be difficult to complete December
planting for the spring harvest. Officials have vaccinated
100,000 livestock for hoof and mouth disease, and are conducting
food safety and animal health inspections of abattoirs and
marketplaces.

"Cholera could break out tomorrow"
----------------------------------
5. (SBU) As an indication of the tenuous nature of the status
quo, however, health officials seemed genuinely surprised that
they have averted a cholera epidemic, and repeatedly
acknowledged that 'an outbreak could occur tomorrow'.

Comment:
--------
6. (SBU) Comment: USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance
has worked closely with Thua Thien Hue authorities, providing
river flood warning alert systems and historical flood mapping
and training on disaster mitigation. The central coast of
Vietnam sees some degree of flooding every year, so provincial
and national health agencies already have a history of
co-operation. However, the degree of flooding this year put
these arrangements to the test. In contrast to the central
government officials' fixation on the term "acute diarrhea"
(refB), regional officials did not shy away from "cholera"
demonstrating that regional officials do not overtly share
Hanoi's fears of imperiling agricultural exports. End comment.

7. (U) This cable has been coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.

FAIRFAX

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