Cablegate: Rapid Response to Typhoon Frank
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1076
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001504
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TAGS: EAID SOCI EAGR SENV RP
SUBJECT: RAPID RESPONSE TO TYPHOON FRANK
1. Summary: Typhoon Fengshen (called Frank under Philippine naming
conventions) hit the Philippines on June 21, with a current death
toll of at least 229 dead, 800 missing, and damage of property in 20
Philippine provinces. The death toll is expected to rise
significantly due to the sinking of the ferry Princess of the Stars,
which capsized with at least 800 passengers and crew on board. Only
a small number of survivors have been reported from the ferry, and
just a few victims have been recovered. There were no U.S. Mission
casualties or damage to U.S. property, and no American Citizen
deaths have been confirmed so far. The Mission has requested
disaster assistance funds of $100,000 for the Philippine Red Cross,
and the U.S. Navy will provide search-and-rescue assets as of
Tuesday, June 24, at the request of the Philippine government to
assist the Philippine Coast Guard and Navy with the capsized ferry.
Mission's press statement follows at paragraph 6. End Summary.
2. On June 21, Typhoon Frank raked 20 provinces in the Philippines,
affecting half a million people, 70,000 of whom are now in
evacuation centers. The reported death toll is 229, but that number
will climb as bodies are recovered. In addition to devastation
caused by floods, storm surge, and landslides, the ferry Princess of
the Stars sank with 742 known passengers and 130 crew members on the
manifest. According to the National Disaster Coordination Council,
the initial property damage estimate is $22 million and includes
destroyed or damaged homes, school structures, and crops. However,
this number may rise as more information becomes available. Winds of
up to 150 mph, flood waters, and falling debris caused additional
damage to bridges, roads, electric posts, and antennas, which has
not been fully assessed.
PACOM Providing Assistance
3. The U.S. Navy vessel USNS Stockham, with two search-and-rescue
capable helicopters, small boats, and an underwater scuba team, is
being repositioned and will arrive around 5 AM on June 24 near
Sibuyan Island where the ferry sank. A P-3 maritime surveillance
aircraft is also available, should the Philippines request images to
pinpoint wreckage and possible survivors.
Status of American Citizens
4. No U.S. residents in the Philippines reported injuries resulting
from the typhoon. American Citizen Services has been in close touch
with Philippine authorities and is scrutinizing the ferry's manifest
for U.S. citizen passengers, while coordinating efforts with other
embassies (sepemail to CA/OCS). Peace Corps contacted its
volunteers to verify that they were not harmed. Communications
remain difficult, and there is one volunteer who has not been
contacted yet: all others are accounted for and unharmed.
U.S. Government Assistance to Philippines
5. Cabinet Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita conveyed to Charge
the Philippine government's desire for assistance from the USG.
This was followed by an official request from the National Disaster
Coordinating Council which is charged with carrying out relief
efforts. Based on these requests and the magnitude of the damage
from the typhoon, Charge has requested the release of the
Ambassador's disaster assistance fund to provide to the Philippines
Red Cross (PRC) with $50,000, and USAID is seeking an additional
$50,000 from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)
(septel). Post plans to donate the funds to the Philippine Red
Cross to support the organization's immediate needs for water,
hygiene supplies, food, and blankets in affected communities. Post
will continue to update Department on further assistance requests
from the Philippine government.
6. Mission released the following press statement June 23.
US ASSISTANCE IN AFTERMATH OF TYPHOON FRANK
The United States extends its sympathy to all who have been affected
by Typhoon Frank (Fengshen) and its aftermath in the Republic of the
Philippines. We deeply regret the loss of life both on land and
from the sinking of the ferry, Princess of the Stars.
The U.S. government has offered assistance to the Philippine
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authorities in carrying out rescue and recovery operations. The U.S
Pacific Command has directed the USNS Stockham, with search and
rescue helicopters aboard, to proceed to Sibuyan Island to be
available to assist with rescue and recovery efforts for the
passengers and crew of the Princess of the Stars. We anticipate
that the helicopters will be in position to begin operations later
today. Additionally, the U.S. Pacific Command has directed a U.S.
Navy P-3 maritime surveillance aircraft to proceed to Clark
International Airport to join in this effort. It should arrive
later today and will be prepared to participate shortly after that.
In addition, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance of the U.S.
Agency for International Development (USAID) will be providing PhP 4
Million ($100,000.00) worth of essential relief goods through the
Philippine National Red Cross, for immediate distribution in the
most severely affected areas.
The United States stands ready to provide any help that we can in
the wake of this tragedy.