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Cablegate: Burma: Cyclone Nargis Sitrep No. 10

VZCZCXRO5928
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGO #0392/01 1370741
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 160741Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7620
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1204
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 4748
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 8292
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5854
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 3725
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1630
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 RANGOON 000392

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR USAID/OFDA, EAP/MLS, S/ES-O-CMS, DS/CC AND
DS/IP/EAP; PACOM FOR LTC JAMIE MCADEN; BANGKOK FOR RSO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID BM
SUBJECT: BURMA: CYCLONE NARGIS SITREP NO. 10

REF: A. RANGOON 387

B. RANGOON 376 AND PREVIOUS

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) EMBASSY OPERATIONS: Embassy Rangoon operated on
city power and had full diesel fuel tanks. Consular received
no new Amcit welfare and whereabouts inquires and all
previous inquiries have been resolved. No criminal incidents
involving American staff were reported.

2. (SBU) U.S. RELIEF FLIGHTS: We have received flight
clearances for four C-130 relief flights to arrive at Rangoon
International Airport on May 16, including two consigned to
NGOs. We have submitted flight requests for four more
flights for May 17, including two consigned to NGOs. The
Ministry of Defense told DAO that they would permit
Thailand-based U.S. helicopters to conduct relief flights
into Rangoon.

3. (SBU) SITUATION ON THE GROUND: The UN estimated that as
of May 16, it has reached approximately 500,000 beneficiaries
out of an estimated 1.5-2.5 million victims. UN aid flights
continued to arrive smoothly, with four more expected on May
16. UN Humanitarian Coordinator John Holmes received a
Burmese visa and will arrive on May 18. The WHO told us
cases of cholera had been confirmed in Rangoon and Irrawaddy
division, but said the incidents of infection were not
significantly greater than for this same time every year.
Embassy contacts who recently returned from Labutta township
in the delta described the situation as dire. The GOB's
official newspaper continued to publish detailed accounts of
the receipt and distribution of relief supplies, and carried
a front page article threatening prosecution for anyone found
embezzling diverting relief aid.

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

4. (SBU) STAFFING AND OPERATIONS: Embassy Rangoon operated
on its normal 0800-1630 schedule subject to a liberal leave
policy. Other than those on regularly scheduled leave, a
full complement of local employees reported for work.

5. (SBU) CONSULAR: Amcit, reported in Rangoon 376 as being
diagnosed with gastroentitis and dehydration at the
Mawlamyine hospital, informed consular he will not depart
Burma as originally planned on May 17. Instead, he intends
to stay in Mawlamyine to regain strength over the weekend and
to depart for his monastery in Germany on May 20. Consular
continues to assist with his travel arrangements and contact
with friends and family.

6. (SBU) AUTHORIZED DEPARTURE: All EFMs who asked to depart
are in Bangkok and plan to remain there until at least May
25. The EAC will meet again before that to make a
recommendation to M either to end post's authorized departure
or continue it until 30 days have elapsed from authorization.

7. (SBU) FUEL AND POWER: The Embassy operated on city power
and had full diesel storage tanks. We received a high octane
delivery today, May 16.

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

9. (SBU) SECURITY: No criminal incidents involving American
staff were reported.

U.S. RELIEF FLIGHTS
-------------------

10. (SBU) We have received flight clearances for four C-130
relief flights to arrive at Rangoon International Airport on
May 16, including two consigned to NGOs. We have submitted

RANGOON 00000392 002 OF 003


flight requests for four more flights for May 17, including
two consigned to NGOs.

11. (SBU) The Ministry of Defense told DAO that they would
permit Thailand-based U.S. helicopters to conduct relief
flights into Rangoon.

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

12. (SBU) CONDITIONS, CASUALTIES AND DAMAGE: The WHO told
us cases of cholera had been confirmed in Rangoon and
Irrawaddy division, but said the incidents of infection were
not significantly greater than this time every year. WHO
officials noted that because of the amount of time it takes
to get test results, the Ministry of Health normally treats
all severe diarrhea as cholera, and continues to do so.
According to WHO statistics, cholera is endemic in Burma,
with more than 1,000 cases occurring annually.

13. (SBU) An expatriate journalist who recently returned
from Labutta township in the delta told us that, as of May
14, at least one established INGO was able to provide medical
aid in the area. He said the INGO had numerous local staff
in the area along with at least three western aid workers who
had entered the country on business visas after the cyclone.
Conditions on the ground were dire, he reported, with
virtually all structures destroyed by the cyclone, and
thousands of residents and IDPs seeking shelter in the few
local monasteries and schools that remained. Another Embassy
contact who returned from Labutta on May 15 told us many
cyclone victims had been moved from Labutta to Myaung Mya,
where the GOB had established more relief camps. He observed
international relief supplies being delivered to and
distributed from a soccer field in town. Nonetheless, our
contact described the GOB's relief efforts in Myaung Mya as
inefficient and in need of improvement.

14. (SBU) RECOVERY AND RELIEF: The UN estimated that as of
May 16, it has reached approximately 500,000 beneficiaries
out of an estimated 1.5-2.5 million victims. The WFP has
distributed 1,200 metric tons of rice throughout the affected
areas. UN aid flights continued to arrive smoothly, with
four more expected on May 16. UN officials in Rangoon
reported that some UN teams of local staff en route to the
affected areas had been stopped at checkpoints and told to
obtain travel permits. However the MFA assured the UN that
there is no such policy for UN staff and said this would be
clarified at the GOB's next disaster coordination meeting
with the military. UN Humanitarian Coordinator John Holmes
received a Burmese visa and will arrive on May 18. He hopes
to visit relief operations in the field and work with the
country team to improve the UN's relief efforts.

15. (SBU) The five-person ASEAN disaster assessment team has
not received travel permission to visit the affected areas.
The team's leader will depart Burma on Sunday in order to
brief the ASEAN ministerial meeting scheduled for May 19.

16. (SBU) The GOB's New Light of Myanmar newspaper continued
to publish detailed accounts of the receipt and distribution
of relief supplies, including a partial list of relief
supplies donated by Asian countries since May 6. In
particular, it stated that so far the Burma Air Force has
transported 330 tons of relief supplies, 17 percent of the
total 1,816 tons of international supplies the Social Welfare
Ministry said the GOB has delivered so far (reftel A). The
paper also carried a front page article threatening
prosecution for anyone found embezzling relief aid.

17. (SBU) A major retail supermarket chain in Rangoon, City
Mart, sent an open letter to an exile media website
contesting recent reports that the chain had sold relief
supplies at its stores. The letter pointed out that City
Mart regularly purchased goods from Thai suppliers and
speculated that reporters may have mistaken these commercial

RANGOON 00000392 003 OF 003


goods for relief supplies. Other commercial contacts have
told us that as normal supply lines were disrupted, new
brands began to appear in local markets which many consumers
may have confused for relief supplies. So far, none of our
local staff or aid contacts have found any evidence of relief
supplies being sold in commercial markets in Rangoon or
Irrawaddy division. We will continue to actively monitor
this situation.

18. (SBU) FUEL: Fuel prices in Rangoon remained stable.

19. (SBU) FOOD AND WATER: Food in Rangoon was still
expensive, especially meat and rice. Shortages in the delta
continued.

20. (SBU) ELECTRICITY: The GOB continued to restore power
to parts of Rangoon, focusing on the eastern, western, and
northern parts of the city. According to Embassy contacts,
the GOB has brought in over 4,000 technicians from around the
country to help rebuild power lines. So far, power has been
restored to 40 percent of townships in Eastern Rangoon, 65
percent of townships in Western Rangoon , 49 percent of
townships in Northern Rangoon, and 13 percent of townships in
Southern Rangoon. However, our sources expect it may take
between three and six months before all of Rangoon has power
restored.

21. (SBU) LAW AND ORDER: We received no reports of
widespread looting or public disturbances in or around
Rangoon.
VILLAROSA

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