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Cablegate: Havana Lessons Learned From Hurricane Ike

VZCZCXYZ0036
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUB #0759 2601924
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161924Z SEP 08
FM USINT HAVANA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3736

UNCLAS HAVANA 000759

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

State for M and S/ES-O/CMS
State for WHA/CCA and WHA/EX

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AFIN AEMR AMGT ASEC CASC KFLO CU
SUBJECT: Havana Lessons Learned from Hurricane Ike

Ref: State 98095

1. USINT Havana's EAC met on September 12 to discuss lessons learned
from Hurricane Ike. As requested in reftel, post reports on what
was learned specific to requesting and implementing authorized
departure.

2.USINT's EAC met on September 6 to discuss preparations for
Hurricane Ike should its eventual track include Havana. The EAC
determined that it wanted to wait until more information was
available on the storm's track before a decision was made on
authorized departure. In the meantime, employees were asked about
their interest in authorized departure to be reported to the EAC the
next day.

3. The EAC reconvened on September 7. Overnight, the storm had
strengthened and its track was forecast to move over Havana.
Several employees had expressed interest in authorized departure
with one family confirmed that they would take advantage should it
be granted. The EAC decided to request authorized departure based
on this information.

LESSONS LEARNED

4. Post has determined that there were several factors that led to
only one TDY staff member departing prior to the storm: inability
to confirm seat reservations for charter flights during the weekend,
sudden cancellations of flights, misconceptions about authorized
departure and amount of time away from post, passports awaiting
Cuban visas at the Ministry of Exterior (MINREX), and concerns about
the protection of family pets and personal property.

5. Post has determined that any decision regarding authorized
departure will be made no less than 72 hours in advance of an
incoming storm with enough lead time to make flight arrangements.
Post is working with U.S. charter companies and with foreign
commercial airlines on contacts and flight schedules so that prompt
decisions can be made on where to fly evacuees.

6. (SBU) Post management is working on a fact sheet to educate
employees and their family members on authorized departure so they
can have an informed determination made for their family prior to
any future emergencies. Post is also working with WHA/CCA on the
issue of the large number of passports of staff and family members
typically awaiting multiple entry Cuban visas from the MINREX.
While post would have made every effort to obtain the return of the
thirty-three passports from the Cuban government for potential
evacuees, there is a sense that some families may have felt they had
no option of departing as they were without passports or if they did
depart, renewing their visas in CUBINT in the U.S. would take longer
than the authorized departure time.

7. In conclusion, post has reviewed and will be tightening its
evacuation tripwires and procedures in the event that another
serious storm or other emergency affects Havana.

FARRAR

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