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Cablegate: Irrawaddy Flooding Draws Scant Interest

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS RANGOON 000959

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE PASS AID/ANE
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV, EB, AND IO
BANGKOK FOR AID
USPACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SENV PGOV BM NGO
SUBJECT: IRRAWADDY FLOODING DRAWS SCANT INTEREST

1. (SBU) Starting July 18th, heavy rains caused the upper
Irrawaddy River to overflow its banks, and flood waters
reportedly reached four to ten feet in the Kachin State
capital of Myitkyina. Local NGOs in Myitkyina reported the
worst flooding since 1997, fouled wells, thousands homeless,
and perhaps 50 dead. Other Kachin towns down river of
Myitkyina also reported flooding, though we have no
information on any major destruction or casualties. Local
sources tell us the waters in Kachin State are receding.

2. (SBU) By July 25th the Irrawaddy flooding was beginning to
affect Mandalay (about 250 miles down river from Myitkyina).
Local NGO officials told A/DCM and visiting EAP/BCLTV deputy
director, traveling in Mandalay, that the situation looked to
be the worst for thirty years -- though they knew of no
significant damage or loss of life yet. Already the waters
are beginning to wash over the Rangoon-Mandalay highway and
parallel railway line, both built near the river. Damage to
these transport routes could cause significant economic
problems as Mandalay, Burma's second largest city, is the
commercial hub for supplying most of Upper and Central Burma
with goods brought in from China.

3. (SBU) Despite the worrying situation, thus far the GOB has
taken no visible action nor asked for international
assistance. In the July 28th edition of regime mouthpiece
"The New Light of Myanmar," an article recounts a July 24-25
visit to Myitkyina by the SPDC's Secretary Two (S-2) Lt. Gen.
Thein Sein. S-2, after "fulfilling the requirements of the
victims," told local officials that this type of flooding was
normal and that "such kind of incident does not last long."
He added that, in any event, "the magnitude of damage and
loss was small." According to the UNDP in Rangoon, and the
UN resident coordinator, UN agencies in Burma are closely
monitoring the flooding and have told the GOB they are
prepared to offer assistance. No such request has come yet,
though, so the UN has not yet mounted any relief efforts.

4. (SBU) On July 27th, the MOFA Director General for
Political Affairs U Thaung Tun, in a meeting with EAP/BCLTV
deputy director and P/E chief, was equally dismissive of the
flooding. "It's not as bad as it looks," he said, "and while
we would accept help from our friends, we have no plans to
request assistance from the UN community."
Martinez

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