Cablegate: Tfha01: Embassy Port Au Prince Earthquake Sitrep As of 1800,
DE RUEHPU #0090/01 0270337
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 270335Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0263
INFO HAITI COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHPU/AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE
UNCLAS PORT AU PRINCE 000090
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AEMR ASEC CASC KFLO MARR PREL PINR AMGT HA PGOV AID
SUBJECT: TFHA01: EMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE EARTHQUAKE SITREP as of 1800,
1. (SBU) Summary: Earthquake damage in a rural agricultural
area near Port-au-Prince was relatively light, but communities are
being challenged by incoming migrants from the capital city and the
lack of cash to purchase its agricultural produce. The rural
regional hospital is receiving patients from the hospital ship
Comfort, to clear beds for more critically-injured victims onboard.
In Port-au-Prince, gasoline and fresh produce are readily available
at pre-quake prices, but few residents have the cash to buy them.
Banks and wire transfer companies are open, but cash is not flowing
fast enough to support the local economy. The Parliament struggles
vainly to become relevant in the crisis. Business leaders present
ideas to accelerate recovery. Port damage is worse than originally
thought. The airport plans to commence limited commercial
operations on February 15. End summary.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AFTERSHOCKS OUTSIDE OF PORT-AU-PRINCE
2. (SBU) Poloff visited several rural mountain communities
approximately eight miles southwest of Port-au-Prince to assess
damage and economic conditions. In the six districts that include
Kenscoff and its environs, damage and injuries were light.
According to the Director General (DG) of the Kenscoff mayor's
office, there were:
* 1,646 homes destroyed;
* 2,403 damaged homes;
* 13,662 people without shelter;
* 127 people injured; and
* 61 deaths.
The DG also said that there were approximately 6,000 migrants who
have evacuated Port-au-Prince and moved into the area, most living
with family members and only a few camping in public areas.
3. (SBU) Little damage could be seen in Kenscoff and its
surrounding villages, with only a few damaged buildings and walls.
The DG said that the majority of damage, injuries and deaths
occurred among the many isolated farms in the region. The region's
economy is based on agriculture.
4. (SBU) Living conditions in the Kenscoff area appeared to
be unaffected by the quake. The public water system (supplied by
springs) is meeting all water needs, the markets were filled with
fresh produce and staples, and vehicle traffic was at a normal
level. However, the DG said that fruit and vegetable producers in
the region are suffering from low sales in their primary market of
Port-au-Prince, where few residents have cash to purchase their
5. (SBU) A few miles from Kenscoff, the Baptist Mission
Hospital was treating approximately 400 patients injured in the
earthquake. Many of those were from Port-au-Prince, who were
transported via helicopter from the USNS Hospital Ship Comfort to
vacate beds needed for more seriously injured victims. The victims
sent to the Baptist Mission from the Comfort consisted primarily of
broken legs. Doctors at the hospital said they were running short
of critical supplies.
SITUATION IN PORT-AU-PRINCE
6. (SBU) Poloff visited several sites in Port-au-Prince:
* Most gas stations were open, with no lines. The price of
gasoline was USD 4.35 per gallon - the same as pre-quake prices.
The reason there were no lines, according to Poloff's discussions
with station attendants, was that few people have the cash to buy
* Street side markets, where most residents purchase fresh
produce, are open in abundance, with large quantities and a wide
assortment of fruits and vegetables. Almost all of the produce
came from the Kenscoff area. Imported items like rice, beans and
even cheese, came from pre-quake stocks. Prices were at or only
slightly elevated above normal, owing to the large quantities of
goods and few purchasers. Vendors complained that sales were low
because few people have cash.
* Some banks and most wire transfer companies were open,
with long but orderly lines. However, it is clear that access to
cash is the bottleneck that is choking the local economy.
* PNH officers were stationed on several major
intersections, where none were observed only two days ago.
Nevertheless, PNH presence is still far below its pre-quake level.
PARLIAMENT SEEKING RELEVANCE
7. (SBU) On January 25, the Lower Chamber passed a resolution
(non-binding) outlining broad principles for the relief and
reconstruction efforts. The resolution had no legal effect and
received little coverage in the press. The Lower Chamber also
formed two special committees, one on aid management and the other
on planning Haiti's reconstruction.
8. (SBU) Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and
other Ministers did not appear at a Senate hearing to which they
were invited, citing other priorities on their agendas. Senator
Michel Clerie is now Senate President ad interim, in the absence of
Kely Bastien, recovering in the United States from injuries
sustained in the quake.
9. (SBU) Parliament is attempting to re-establish itself and
has asked for help from the Executive in getting access to internet
and radio. However, it continues to be sidelined by the Executive,
the media and other actors involved in relief efforts.
PRIVATE SECTOR PRESENTS IDEAS FOR MOVING FORWARD
10. (SBU) Members of the Haiti's Economic Forum, comprised of
business leaders, met with EmbOffs on January 26 to discuss how the
private sector can move forward. Reginald Boulos, President of the
Forum, declared, "The most important step is bridging the
recovery," referring to interim actions that can be taken by the
private sector to bolster the economy on the road to recovery.
Boulos stated that the immediate goal is to speed up the re-opening
of businesses in five key areas: banks, gas stations,
supermarkets, telecommunications and garment production. The
private sector is also working with the Minister of Finance and the
Government of the Dominican Republic to establish procedures to
facilitate customs processing.
11. (SBU) Lionel Delatour recommended the construction of new
industrial parks beyond Port-au-Prince. In particular, he noted
the importance of focusing on industries other than the garment
sector, which only employs approximately 20% of employees in the
SEAPORTS AND AIRPORTS
12. (SBU) The sole working pier at the principal port is no
longer operating and will be out of commission for an unknown
period. Divers inspecting the previously damaged pier noticed new
damage that will stop all traffic until it is repaired. However,
the US Navy has already brought in equipment to handle barges and
will use smaller vessels to load and unload ships, avoiding the
pier. Alternate sites are available in nearby locations outside
of the port, but the throughput is unknown on those wharfs. The
military should still be able to handle the arriving rations for
the "food surge", but non-priority traffic may have to wait in
harbor for longer periods.
13. (SBU) The head of the Civil Aviation Authority told military
officials today that American Airlines will begin flying into the
airport on February 15. To do this, the airport plans to spend USD
400K to repair the west end of the terminal, a project estimated by
Haitian engineers to require USD 650K. He asked if the USG would
fund the difference. He also said that no other airlines would be
able to use the airport, reasoning that since American normally
serves 70% of the passengers, it should be allowed to operate first
in the small part of the terminal that is reparable. He also said
that he was going to restrict UN access to the commercial tarmac.