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Cablegate: Sumatra Earthquake Victims Celebrate Thanksgiving Day

VZCZCXYZ0002
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHJA #1964 3351047
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 011047Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3952
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS JAKARTA 001964


SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/PD, EAP/MTS
DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS AID
USAID FOR ANE/EAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PREL PGOV SOCI ID
SUBJECT: SUMATRA EARTHQUAKE VICTIMS CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING DAY

1. (U) SUMMARY. U.S. Consulate Medan hosted Thanksgiving Day dinner
in Padang, West Sumatra, the province struck by a catastrophic
earthquake on September 30. ConGen Medan hosted 85 guests including
senior government officials, U.S. alumni, high school students,
Americans and ordinary citizens who acted heroically. ConGen began
the event by reading President Obama's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation
and asking everyone to pray for the victims of the earthquake. The
Vice Governor thanked the U.S. for its care and support. END
SUMMARY.
2. (U) ConGen Medan served up three boiled turkeys (no ovens were
available) with all the trimmings to a group of 85 guests in Padang
to celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Padang was chosen for this year's
commemoration in light of the September 30 earthquake which killed
over 1,100 persons and left much of the province in shambles.
Guests included senior civilian, police and military officials,
university rectors, dozens of U.S. alumni, principals and students
from two model public schools which were destroyed and the half
dozen Americans living in Padang. Several citizens who suffered
great losses or performed heroic acts during the earthquake also
attended.

3. (U) In his remarks, ConGen noted that the resilient spirit of
the West Sumatran people in coming together in the face of adversity
through their faith exemplified the spirit of Thanksgiving, as did
the response by the U.S. and the international community in helping
West Sumatra in its time of need. Vice Governor Marlis Rahman said
he was moved by the U.S. concern and support. He noted that
Thanksgiving is similar to the Muslim holy day of Halal Bi Halal.

4. (U) ConGen also recognized five persons at the dinner who faced
great hardship or saved lives:
-- The parents of Lani, a 12-year-old girl who lost both legs when a
building fell on her and is recuperating at the wrecked hospital
where the U.S. Navy set up its field hospital. ConGen also visited
Lani, giving her a Panda Bear.
-- Zahra, a small girl trapped up to her neck in a landslide. Her
father responded to her calls, jumped in and pulled her out before
the mud could bury her.
-- Zulkifli, who ran into his home to rescue his young daughter,
suffering head injuries.
-- Junaedi, a fireman who rushed into a collapsed building saving
many lives.
-- Richard, a Padang city official who lost his daughter in the
rubble.
5. (U) The more than USD12 million the USG provided in emergency
assistance to West Sumatra is widely appreciated, many seeing the
U.S. as leading the world in helping West Sumatra. The economy is
beginning to recover with local markets bustling and farmers
returning to the fields.

6. Nevertheless, West Sumatra faces a daunting challenge to rebuild
tens of thousands of damaged homes and buildings, irrigation
systems, and other infrastructure. Padang and parts of the rest of
the province remain in shambles. The GOI is expected to announce a
rehabilitation and reconstruction action plan costing an estimated
USD700 million, with GOI funds not anticipated until March 2010.
7. The Padang Thanksgiving Day event received extensive local and
national press coverage and was commented on in several blogs. The
U.S. Consulate Medan Facebook page's pictures of the event received
numerous comments as well.

HUME

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