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Cablegate: Burma: Cyclone Nargis Declaration of Disaster

VZCZCXRO5412
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHGO #0315 1261204
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051204Z MAY 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7477
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 2447
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3632
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0874

UNCLAS RANGOON 000315

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS
USDOC FOR 4430/MAC/ASIA/OPB/VLC/HPPHO
STATE FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA KY LUU, ROBERT THAYER, TOM ROGERS
STATE FOR USAID/DCHA/OFDA DAA GREG GOTTLIEB
BANGKOK FOR OFDA SENIOR REGIONAL ADVISOR WILLIAM BERGER
KATHMANDU FOR OFDA ADVISOR
GENEVA FOR USAID NANCY KYLOH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV KSCA TBIO EAID VM
SUBJECT: BURMA: CYCLONE NARGIS DECLARATION OF DISASTER

REF: A) RANGOON 310

1. This is an action cable. Please see paras 5 and 9.

2. As a result of Cyclone Nargis, which occurred on May 3, 2008
(Ref A), the Chief of Mission has determined that the disaster is
beyond the capability of the host government to respond, is of
sufficient magnitude to warrant U.S. Government assistance, and is
in the best interest of the U.S. Government to respond. The GOB has
requested international assistance, including from the United States
Government. The Chief of Mission is therefore exercising the
disaster assistance authority.

3. Cyclone Nargis made landfall on Burma's Irrawaddy Delta on May 2
at approximately 1430, and on May 3, pounded Rangoon from
approximately midnight to 1030, local time. According to Embassy
Officers, the storm brought down trees throughout Rangoon, cutting
off communications, electricity, and water supplies to much of the
city. Burmese authorities report the number of dead at 10,000 with
3,000 missing. Initial UN estimates place the number of people
living in the storm area at approximately 15 million, with perhaps
one million of them in need of humanitarian assistance. The UN will
reevaluate these numbers as more information becomes available.

4. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached UNHCR with requests
for food, canned food, medicine, water purifications systems,
temporary shelters, blankets, tarpaulins, plastic sheeting, mosquito
nets, and iron sheets, nails, and wires. In a meeting with UN
Acting Resident Coordinator Chris Kaye, the Deputy Minister of
Social Welfare acknowledged the GOB needed international assistance
for the relief effort, but has not committed to receiving an UNDAC
team. The Embassy separately received a verbal request from the
Burmese Army for satellite imagery and unspecified humanitarian
assistance.

5. The Chief of Mission is requesting $50,000 in discretionary
funds and $200,000 as discussed previously with Bill Berger. We
will channel these funds through UNICEF, WFP, and UNHCR. These
agencies are taking the lead in providing water and sanitation,
food, and shelter to those in need.

6. The Myanmar Red Cross (MRC) will take the lead on GOB disaster
relief efforts. Food and supplies channeled through the UN system
will not be given directly to them, only distributed in close
coordination. Other GOB agencies involved in the humanitarian
relief coordination effort are the Ministry of Social Welfare, the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of Defense.

7. Providing this humanitarian assistance will assist the millions
of people left homeless and suffering by the devastating cyclone.
Our assistance provides an opportunity for the GOB to open its
closed system to the international organizations best equipped to
provide them the relief they need, and paving the way for a more
positive relationship with the international community.

8. U.S. Embassy Rangoon has done preliminary surveys of the U.S.
citizens in Rangoon. We have found no major injuries or deaths among
U.S. citizens, but the storm damaged many of their homes and
workplaces.

9. Because of the magnitude of the disaster (Ref A), Embassy
Rangoon requests a USAID Disaster Assessment Relief Team (DART).
This team would work in conjunction with the UN on relief and
assessment efforts. However, the GOB is not yet ready to agree to
permit the entry of either UN or USG assessment teams, so they
should not make any travel plans.

10. The UN continues to assess the situation and anticipates having
a clearer picture of the damage within the next 24 hours.

VILLAROSA

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