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Cablegate: Tfha01: Embassy Port Au Prince Earthquake Sitrep As of 1800,

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DE RUEHPU #0070/01 0210016
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FM AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0238
INFO HAITI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
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RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
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UNCLAS PORT AU PRINCE 000070

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AEMR ASEC CASC KFLO MARR PREL PINR AMGT HA PGOV AID
EAID
SUBJECT: TFHA01: EMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE EARTHQUAKE SITREP as of 1800,
Day 8

1. (SBU) Summary: Port-au-Prince experienced an aftershock
measuring 6.1 this morning, causing some concern but no reported
damage. Destruction and deaths in Cite Soleil from last week's
earthquake were relatively low, owing to the simple, low, makeshift
housing. The turnout of police officers at the Cite Soleil police
station is relatively high, compared to other stations. Embassy
staff is working to help Telco re-establish landline telephone
service. President Preval addressed the public via radio,
complaining of the difficulties in coordinating aid, and stating
that "Haiti will stand up again!" The shipping company
transporting aid to Port-au-Prince for the USG reported traffic
jams on the land route connecting Port-au-Prince and the Dominican
Republic, causing significant delays. Incidents of looting and
violence remain isolated. End summary.

HAITI AWAKENS TO AN AFTERSHOCK MEASURING 6.1

1. (SBU) Residents of Port-au-Prince who thought the worst
was over were alarmed by a significant jolt at approximately 6:00
AM this morning, the largest aftershock since the January 12 quake.
Though causing some panic and concern, there were no reports of
major damage in Port-au-Prince. However, the Embassy received a
credible though unconfirmed report of the collapse of a multi-level
school in Milot, south of Cap Haitien. We understand that a
Portuguese journalist in Port-au-Prince was seriously injured in
the aftershock.

WHEN POVERTY CAN BE AN ADVANTAGE

2. (SBU) Polcouns visited Cite Soleil, where he observed
relatively little damage. The local police chief reported that
approximately 3,000 residents of the area died in the earthquake,
of an estimated 300,000 population - a low fatality rate compared
to other densely populated neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. We
credit the relatively low number of deaths to the lack of large
concrete block buildings and the predominance of low makeshift
shelters that better absorbed the shock. Unfortunately, the only
public school in Cite Soleil, a concrete block building, did not
survive the quake.

3. (SBU) According to PNH officials, the violence in the
community is not more than it was before the quake. The police
station presently has 50 out of 67 men on duty (which is
significantly above the 40 percent rate of staffing reported by
other Port-au-Prince police stations). The distribution of food
that normally takes place in Cite Soleil was interrupted with the
quake and police fear that if food and water do not get to the
residents relatively quickly, they might see more aggression in
coming days. In addition, the police fear that many of the escaped
prisoners may hook up with the existing criminals in the area to
form gangs which could become dangerous. The U.S. military is
planning to begin food and water distribution in the community
shortly.

EMBASSY STAFF WORKING WITH TELCO TO RE-ESTABLISH LANDLINE PHONE
SERVICE

4. (SBU) The Embassy's IPC office is helping to re-establish
landline telephone service in Port-au-Prince and particularly to
the Embassy. IPC telephone technicians have been working with
Telco and a group of military telephone technicians for the past
three days to reconnect lines at Telco's distribution points in
Petionville and Pacot.

PREVAL ADDRESSES THE PUBLIC

5. (SBU) In a statement broadcast on Port-au-Prince radio,
President Preval complained that "Aid is arriving and we are not
prepared to receive it. When it arrives, they tell us 'Where are
the trucks for transportation, where are the warehouses?' The aid
is accumulating in a backlog. It is the coordination of aid,
knowing what quantities, when and how to distribute it that is
important." In addition, in a French radio interview, Preval
stated "A people and a country do not die. In the past two years
we have gone through two historical catastrophes - four hurricanes
(in one year) and an earthquake (in the next year). Yes, we will
stand up again!"

PRIVATE SECTOR REQUESTS U.S. SECURITY IN ORDER TO GET BACK TO
BUSINESS

6. (SBU) Representatives of Haiti's private sector met with
the Ambassador Merten on January 19 to thank the U.S. for its
relief efforts. They stated that "Now, it is time to get back to
business." Their major concern is security at all levels, to
include security of goods, at marketplaces, and for ports of entry
(i.e., the seaports, the airport, and the road between
Port-au-Prince and the Dominican Republic). They also raised the
issue of financial security - that is, preventing the collapse of
Haiti's banking system given the large amount of expected
bankruptcies and delinquent debts. According to Richard Coles,
representing a major Haitian business conglomerate, "If we can have
security, within three months we will be operational with 80,000
jobs back on the market." Bernard Fils-Aime, representing wireless
provider Comcel/Voila, raised the issue of misperceptions among the
general Haitian population, who expect the U.S. military to take
over the role of MINUSTAH and to provide relief and security.
Regarding the role of Haitian leadership in recovery and
rebuilding, Bernard Craan said, "The massive presence of the
international community should not be devoid of Haitian
participation. We [Haiti] must not be taken charge of; we must
take charge." The Ambassador reiterated that the USG is trying to
work with and build up the Haitian state as a partner and
encouraged the group to focus on how to work together more
efficiently.

TRAFFIC JAMS PLAGUE AID EN ROUTE BY LAND FROM THE DR

7. (SBU) Poloff received a call from the manager of the
shipping company that is transporting aid supplies for the U.S.
military via land from the Dominican Republic. The manager stated
that 40-foot containers presently en route to Port-au-Prince are
being delayed by traffic jams in three chokepoints: At Malpasse
(on the Haiti-DR border); at Croix des Bouquets (approximately
seven miles east of Port-au-Prince); and at the intersection of the
highway from the DR and Rue 15th October (about one mile west of
the U.S. Embassy). According to the manager, the shipper's truck
drivers are reporting 5-hour delays at each chokepoint.

8. INCIDENTS OF LOOTING AND VIOLENCE REMAIN ISOLATED

9. (SBU) According to the Embassy RSO, reports of looting and
violence remain isolated, and are occurring mainly in the downtown
area. Incidents are caused primarily by roving armed gangs. In
residential areas, occasional gunshots are being heard, primarily
by armed property owners scaring off potential looters.

MINIMIZE CONSIDERED
MERTEN

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