Cablegate: Sri Lanka, Maldives Report Extensive Damage,
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 COLOMBO 002046
STATE FOR CA/OCS AND SA/INS
STATE PLEASE ALSO PASS USAID
PACOM FOR FPA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC EAID CE MV
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA, MALDIVES REPORT EXTENSIVE DAMAGE,
CASUALTIES FROM TIDAL WAVE
1. (U) At least 2000 people were reported killed in Sri
Lanka, including 4 in Colombo, and an unknown number in
Maldives as a result of flooding caused by tidal waves
unleashed by an earthquake off the coast of Indonesia on
December 26. Beach resorts in both countries, packed with
holiday tourists, suffered extensive damage. The Embassy has
activated the warden network. As of 6:00 p.m. local time the
Embassy had received no reports of American casualties, but
reliable information is scarce. The governments of both
countries have requested international disaster assistance.
In addition, the Sri Lankan Government has asked for disaster
management assistance from the U.S. End summary.
TSUNAMI TAKES TOURISTS, LOCALS BY SURPRISE
2. (U) Massive tidal waves, spurred by an earthquake in
Indonesia, washed over atolls across Maldives, including the
capital city of Male, and struck coastal areas in the north,
east, south and southwest of Sri Lanka mid-morning on
December 26. Minor flooding was also reported in suburbs to
the south of Colombo (approximately 5 km from the Embassy).
By mid-day on December 26, police and hospital sources in Sri
Lanka were reporting more than 1000 dead across the country;
later in the day Government reports put the tally at over
2000. Casualty figures for Maldives were unavailable,
although Chief Government Spokesman Dr. Ahmed Shaheed
reported that eight Maldivians were killed. Popular coastal
tourist resorts in Maldives and Sri Lanka, filled to capacity
with holiday travelers, were among the hardest-hit areas. As
of early evening on December 26, the Embassy had received no
reports of American citizens being killed or injured in
either country. However, reliable information is scarce, and
it has not been possible to contact the resorts and hotels.
3. (U) The Embassy activated the warden system to alert
U.S. citizens of the situation. The Embassy is planning to
send an emboff to Galle and another to Male, conditions
permitting, on December 27 to assess the situation and to
contact American citizens. As of mid-day on December 26,
hospital sources in Sri Lanka reported were reporting the
following: 350 dead in the eastern coastal disrict of
Batticaloa; 200-250 dead in the northeastern district of
Trincomalee; ; 250 dead in the southern district of Matara;
115 dead in the southern district of Hambantota; 250 dead in
the southwestern district of Galle; and 4 dead in Colombo.
4. (SBU) According to Sri Lankan Army sources, the military
has lost communications with its camps north of Trincomalee.
One brigade headquarters in Trincomalee was reported
completely washed away, and the brigade commander is feared
dead. Army bases at strategic Point Pedro and Nagarkovil in
the northern district of Jaffna are completely under water,
and at least 7 soldiers were reported killed and 120 injured
in the northern district of Jaffna. Military casualties in
the east are unknown, but many soldiers are reported missing.
GOVERNMENTS SEEK HELP
5. (U) Both the Sri Lankan and Maldivian governments have
declared national disasters and are seeking foreign
assistance. Maldivian Government Spokesman Shaheed, who told
poloff that two-thirds of the capital is under water after
waves as high as 10 feet crashed into the island, said
communications have been lost with some of the more remote
atolls and that on some islands not a single structure has
been left standing. The government's most pressing need is
logistical support, including aircraft to provide
reconnaissance flights to assess damage on outlying atolls
with which Male has lost communication.
6. (SBU) The Sri Lankan Prime Minister's Office contacted
the Ambassador to ask for U.S. assistance in monitoring the
potential for follow-up tsunamis from aftershocks, which the
Ambassador conveyed to the U.S. Tsunami Warning Center in
Honolulu. Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary H.M.G.S. Palihakkara
subsequently contacted the Ambassador to request U.S.
assistance to his government in disaster management.
7. (U) Ambassador spoke to UNDP ResRep Miguel Bermeo, who
had been in meetings all day with the Sri Lankan government.
Bermeo said at least 2,000 were dead, 200,000 disiplaced, and
one million were affected by the flooding. He said a UN
disaster assistance team would be arriving, perhaps as soon
as December 27, to assess the situation and provide disaster
management assistance. He also noted that there is no
information on the situation in LTTE-controlled areas along
the eastern coast. He will be meeting again with Government
representatives later December 26 to put in place a
preliminary relief distribution plan.
8. (U) The Embassy will continue to monitor the situation
and provide updates as more information becomes available.