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Cablegate: Sri Lanka and Maldives: Update On Post-Tsunami

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 002053

SIPDIS

STATE FOR CA/OCS AND SA/INS
STATE PLEASE ALSO PASS AID
USPACOM FOR FPA
NEW DELHI FOR FAS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CASC AEMR EAID CE MV
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA AND MALDIVES: UPDATE ON POST-TSUNAMI
SITUATION

REF: COLOMBO 2046 (NOTAL)

1. Five Americans have been reported killed and about 100
remain unaccounted for after a tsunami struck Sri Lanka the
morning of December 26, causing at least 6,000 deaths
islandwide. (Note: The latest government figures indicate the
count could rise as high as 10,000. End note.) This tally
includes at least 900 victims whose bodies have been brought
into government-controlled territory from areas controlled by
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the northern
part of the island. Some reports from LTTE areas indicate as
many as 1500 may have been killed in areas under Tiger
control. Casualty figures across the country are expected to
rise as more information becomes available. The Ministry of
Tourism estimates that about 70 foreign tourists of unknown
nationalities may be missing. An American consular officer
and one Locally Engaged Staff traveled to the southern
district of Galle in Sri Lanka on December 27, where three
AmCits were reported killed and another injured.

2. No Americans have been reported killed as a result of the
tsunami on December 26 in Maldives. The death toll in

SIPDIS
Maldives stood at 43 Maldivians and 3 foreigners (one Sri
Lankan and two British citizens) as of mid-afternoon on
December 27. An American officer traveled to Maldives on
December 27 to establish contact with American citizens in
need of assistance. With phone lines unreliable and fax
lines inoperative, Chief Government Spokesman Dr. Ahmed
Shaheed e-mailed to poloff an official diplomatic note
specifying requests for disaster assistance. A copy of the
e-mail has been forwarded to SA/INS.

3. All U.S. government facilities, including the Embassy,
American Center and IBB site in Iranawila in northwestern Sri
Lanka remain fully operational. The Embassy continues to
experience difficulty in obtaining reliable information from
affected areas, a situation aggravated by prolonged outages
of land-line and mobile telephone communications. In the
southern district of Galle, authorities have located the
remnants of three railway cars, presumably jammed full of
travelers returning from their Christmas holidays, which had
been thrown off the tracks by the force of the wave. In the
eastern district of Trincomalee, one of the worst affected
areas, at least 1000 people have been reported killed, most
of them children. Six hotels, including Nilaveli Beach
Resort, one of the most popular tourist destinations on the
island, have collapsed and/or been washed away.


4. On December 27 a multi-agency meeting hosted by UNDP was
held in an effort to coordinate disaster relief. As a result
of that meeting, NGOs and bilateral donors have decided to
form a working group to be coordinated by British aid agency
DFID. Three specialists from the UN Office of Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) arrived in Sri Lanka on
December 27. UNOCHA is establishing an operational office in
Sri Lanka for the next week or as necessary. One of the
first results is likely to be a joint coordinated disaster
assessment, beginning on December 28, combining the resources
of DFID specialists, an 80-person French team, UN agencies,
as well as USAID/OFDA.

5. OFDA's Regional Advisor Bill Berger is expected to arrive
tonight from Kathmandu. Foreign Secretary Palihakkara told
Ambassador again on December 27 of Government interest in a
DART team. Ambassador told him Berger will assess the
situation, and we would decide where to go from there.
Palihakkara also mentioned the need for helicopters (See Para
6 below.) The Sri Lankan government plans to set up a
website (helpsrilanka.org), expected to be fully operational
by COB on December 27, with information for individuals
wishing to offer donations/assistance to victims of the
tsunami. The Sri Lankan government plans to use the

SIPDIS
international convention center in Colombo to house foreign
tourists evacuated from other parts of the island. The
Embassy, through a combination of converted space available
from its employees recreational association and emboffs'
residences, can accommodate up to 40 displaced Americans. In
addition, the Embassy has set up a separate collection for
Locally Engaged Staff affected by flooding.
6. The Sri Lankan military is sending us their needs lists,
and DATT is in contact with PACOM and III MEF to see what
assistance can be provided.

7. Overall, things are a little slow in getting sorted out,
but beginning, we think, to pick up. This is not surprising,
given the scale of the disaster.
LUNSTEAD

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