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Cablegate: Burma: Cyclone Nargis Sitrep No. 4

VZCZCXRO8279
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGO #0335/01 1290829
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 080829Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7516
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1142
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 4689
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 8230
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5792
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3661
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1549
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 RANGOON 000335

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR USAID/OFDA, EAP/MLS, S/ES-O-CMS, DS/CC AND
DS/IP/EAP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID BM
SUBJECT: BURMA: CYCLONE NARGIS SITREP NO. 4

REF: A. RANGOON 334

B. RANGOON 330 AND PREVIOUS
C. IIR 6 812 0065 08/BURMA
D. IIR 6 812 0062 08/BURMA

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) EMBASSY OPERATIONS: Embassy Rangoon continued to
operate on city power and we expect to top off our diesel
tanks tomorrow. All FSNs will be allowed administrative
leave at 1200 on May 9 to repair their homes. The American
Center will reopen on May 12. So far 22 family members have
elected to depart post, the first four will leave on May 9.
On May 7, we issued a warden message reiterating the points
in the Department's travel warning and providing fight
information. At the request of family members in the US,
Consular continued to confirm welfare/whereabouts of Amcits
and has not received any requests for emergency assistance.

2. (SBU) SITUATION ON THE GROUND: Embassy officers who
traveled to Bago and the southeastern Irrawaddy delta on May
7 reported most roads were passable but several bridges were
damaged and at least one destroyed. Damage in the area they
visited was moderate to severe, with conditions worse the
further south they traveled. Government relief efforts had
begun but were slow and inconsistent. A fuel shipment was
expected to arrive near Rangoon today, although with the
ports closed it will take about two days to transport the
fuel to Rangoon by barge. Authorities continued to restore
power to parts of downtown and central Rangoon, but many
neighborhoods, including most of the city's suburbs, were
without city electricity. Food was more readily available in
Rangoon but at high prices. The price of diesel and gasoline
dropped by between 10 and 20 percent. There were no reports
of significant looting or public disturbances in Rangoon.
Residents of the delta region were still in dire need of
food, water, and
fuel.

EMBASSY OPERATIONS
------------------

X. (SBU) STAFFING AND OPERATIONS: All FSNs will be granted
administrative leave at 1200 on Friday, May 9 to repair their
homes. We continue to operate under a liberal leave policy.
Post will reopen the American Center on Monday May 12,
subject to the continued availability of fuel and city
electricity.

X. (SBU) CONSULAR: On the afternoon of May 7, a Warden
Message was disseminated reminding Amcits of the May 5 Travel
Warning, which urged Amcits to strongly consider departing
Burma. The Warden Message also provided commercial airline
and flight availability information. Consular continued to
confirm welfare/whereabouts of Amcits, about whom U.S. family
members inquired, principally by visiting them by car when an
exact address is known and by Burmese Immigration
authorities' confirmations of departure. Telephonic
confirmations do occur, but are sparse due to
telecommunications lines being cut in most of Rangoon.
Consular has received no Amcit requests for emergency
assistance.

X. (SBU) AUTHORIZED DEPARTURE AND FLIGHTS: Post's Authorized
Departure Task Force met again on May 8. So far, 22 eligible
family members have requested to depart post. The first four
are scheduled to depart on May 9 and more should depart over
the weekend.

X. (SBU) FUEL AND POWER: The Embassy continued to operate
on city power. We received four truckloads of diesel fuel
and one truckload of high octane on May 8. With that
delivery, our diesel storage tanks are now 85 percent full,
and high octane tanks are at 48 percent. We expect to
receive four more truckloads tomorrow which would top off our

RANGOON 00000335 002 OF 003


diesel storage tanks.

X. (SBU) WATER: The Embassy continues to have adequate water
supplies and purification capacity on hand.

X. (SBU) SECURITY: No criminal incidents involving American
staff were reported. RSO has received reports some
residences may have been cased by potential burglars. We
continued to operate two mobile patrols around Embassy
residences 24 hours a day and Embassy staff have been
instructed to remain vigilant for potential security threats.

X. (SBU) OTHER: Post distributed food and temporary
chlorine water purification kits to our FSNs to meet
immediate needs.

SITUATION ON THE GROUND
-----------------------

X. (SBU) CASUALTIES AND DAMAGE: Embassy officers from P/E
and DAO traveled to Bago and the southeastern Irrawaddy delta
on May 7. Southern Bago Division, among the areas that the
Burmese government declared a disaster area, suffered
variable damage from Cyclone Nargis. The roads to and from
Bago were clear and relatively undamaged. The city of Bago
appeared relatively undamaged except for a few fallen trees
and damaged homes. The situation south of Bago, however, was
far more severe. Much of the rice crop was un-harvested at
the time of the storm and has been ruined. Prices for
construction materials have tripled since the May 3 cyclone.
Food, fuel, and clean water was scarce and prices continued
to rise (see Septel).

X. (SBU) DAO officers reported a mixture of moderate to
severe damage in the southeastern delta region (see reftels C
and D). Roads were relatively undamaged, but Embassy
officers observed at least one destroyed bridge near Dedaye
(50KM southwest of Rangoon) and at least two severely damaged
bridges near Bogalay (100KM southwest of Rangoon). There was
significant damage to towns between Rangoon and Dedaye, with
conditions getting worse the further south Emboff traveled.
None of these towns had electricity and few had access to
potable water. DAO officer observed several un-recovered
human corpses and animal carcasses between Kungyangon and
Dedaye. Local residents in Bogolay told us approximately
15,000 persons had died in or near that city, although Emboff
did not observe any un-recovered corpses and could not
confirm these figures. Most of the first-hand accounts of
deaths came from the town of Seisan, 25 miles south of
Bogolay. Residents in Bogolay reported they had harvested
and sold approximately 90 percent of their rice crop to
traders before the storm, although DAO officer observed
significant damage to several rice mills which may have
ruined some of the crop being processed. Authorities
prevented DAO officer from traveling beyond Bogolay.

X. (SBU) RECOVERY AND RELIEF: Most local residents Embassy
officers encountered were actively engaged in recovery
efforts, including reconstruction of their homes, salvaging
and drying rice crops, and clearing downed trees and power
lines. While government relief efforts had begun, Emboffs
reported the progress was slow and inconsistent. DAO learned
that the GOB has been conducting food drops in the delta
region using its five available helicopters. Soldiers were
present in some places Emboffs visited clearing trees and
distributing supplies, but residents were left to themselves
in others. In Bogolay, several monks had begun to organize
relief efforts themselves. Emboffs reported the government
was not actively engaged in rendering medical care in the
areas they visited. We will try to send officers to the
southwest delta region where reports of losses are more
severe.

X. (SBU) FUEL: Econ contacts reported private companies will
begin bringing fuel shipments into Rangoon. A shipment of
diesel fuel is expected to arrive at the mouth of the river

RANGOON 00000335 003 OF 003


south of Rangoon today. Because of the damaged ports, the
fuel must then be transferred to a barge for transport to
Rangoon (reftel A). Our contact expected the fuel would
likely arrive in Rangoon on Saturday May 10, but did not know
how much was being shipped. Blackmarket fuel prices dropped
on May 8. Diesel sold at 8,000 kyat ($7.20) per gallon, down
2,000 from the day before. Gasoline sold for 7,000 ($6.30)
per gallon, down 1,000 from the day before. Additionally,
our contacts reported lines and rationing at some gas
stations have begun to ease, with some stations selling five
to six gallons per visit, versus just two yesterday.

X. (SBU) FOOD AND WATER: Food was generally available in
most parts of Rangoon, but at high prices. Fruits and
vegetables were more readily available than meat, fish, and
rice. Most outdoor markets were open for business and
several more modern grocery stores operated on a limited
basis. Most residents of the delta region are still in dire
need of food and water.

X. (SBU) TRANSPORTATION: Limited train service to and from
Rangoon resumed. More busses and other forms of public
conveyance were seen on the roads today.

X. (SBU) ELECTRICITY: Authorities continued to restore
power to parts of downtown and central Rangoon, but many
neighborhoods, including most of the city's suburbs, were
without city electricity. Most, if not all, of the delta
remained without government-provided power.

X. (SBU) LAW AND ORDER: There were no reports of widespread
looting or public disturbance in or around Rangoon. Emboffs
observed numerous police and soldiers around the downtown and
central Rangoon.

X. (SBU) VISAS: Four UN international aid experts were
granted visas, but one of their Dutch colleagues was still
waiting. Reports from Thailand that the GOB has authorized
US military flights are not based on the facts. We have
received no authorization. The story is based on a Thai
general's conversation with a Burmese general.
VILLAROSA

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