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Cablegate: Disaster Declaration: Colombian Forest Fires

VZCZCXYZ0000
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0100 0110203
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 110202Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1995
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHSJ/AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 000100

SIPDIS
OFDA SAN JOSE FOR CALLAGHAN AND GELMAN
OFDA WASHINGTON FOR KATHLEEN MARTIN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID SENV PREF SOCI EAGR ECON PREL PGOV CO
SUBJECT: DISASTER DECLARATION: COLOMBIAN FOREST FIRES

REF: A) 09 STATE 124728; B) BOGOTA 15

1. SUMMARY: In response to the increasing number and severity of
forest fires that have affected 98 municipalities in 12 departments
across Colombia, the Chief of Mission has determined that the
disaster is of sufficient magnitude to warrant U.S. Government
assistance. The damage has exceeded the effective capacity of the
Colombian Government (GOC) to respond. The Ministers of Defense,
Environment, and Interior have jointly requested USG assistance and
it is in the best interest of the USG to respond immediately. The
Chief of Mission is therefore exercising his Disaster Assistance
Authority. END SUMMARY.

2. Forest fires began in late December as a result of drought
conditions (reftel B). Since then, the fires have quickly
escalated and approximately 363 fires now affect 98 municipalities
in 12 departments, impacting 3,034 hectares of land.

3. On January 8, with President Uribe's approval the GOC's Ministry
of Interior and Justice issued a departmental and district-level
Disaster Declaration for 11 departments and Bogota, D.C. and
ordered GOC authorities to develop an action plan to respond to the
forest fires.

4. At the request of Ambassador Brownfield, the Office of Foreign
Disaster Assistance (OFDA) sent a forest fire expert to Colombia to
work with US MILGROUP and GOC authorities, including the Ministries
of Defense and Environment and Colombian military authorities, to
conduct a needs assessment and make recommendations to the GOC and
USG.

5. The working group's needs assessment identified the following
recommendations: technical assistance from OFDA forest fire experts
to work with GOC authorities to establish an information command
center within the GOC Risk Management Center; support to develop
the plan of action ordered in the GOC Disaster Declaration;
protection equipment for forest-fighting teams (e.g., uniforms,
gloves, helmets, masks); forest-fighting equipment (e.g., fire
hoses, water pumps, chainsaws, scythes, GPS and digital
meteorological devices); manual forest-fighting tools (e.g., forest
spades, back water pumps, machetes); and logistical support for
fire-fighting teams (e.g., rations, first aid kits).

6. The COM authority of $50,000 may be used to procure the
aforementioned assistance. Funds will likely be channeled through
the Colombian Red Cross.

7. Additional funds and relief supplies may be requested based on
gaps identified by the OFDA Regional Advisors and the Mission
Disaster Relief Officer (MDRO).

8. For additional and ongoing information on the Colombian forest
fires, please see the following websites:

- GOC/DPAD - http://www.sigpad.gov.co/


- The Colombian Red Cross http://www.cruzrojacolombiana.org

BROWNFIELD

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