Cablegate: Portugal Flood Disaster Declaration
DE RUEHLI #0069/01 0531501
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 221501Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY LISBON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8121
RUEHUP/AMEMBASSY BUDAPEST 0048
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LISBON 000069
STATE FOR DCHA JBRAUSE, SREICHLE; OFDA FOR CCHAN, ACONVERY, RANDREW,
BUDAPEST FOR USAID/OFDA JACK MYER
TAGS: EAID SOCI PREF PHUM PGOV PO
SUBJECT: PORTUGAL FLOOD DISASTER DECLARATION
LISBON 00000069 001.2 OF 002
1. This is an action request - please see Paragraph 7.
2. More than a normal month's worth of rain fell within eight hours
on February 20, in Funchal, the capital of Madeira, a Portuguese
island 1,200 kilometers southwest of Lisbon, causing flash floods
and mudslides that killed at least 43 people, injured more than 120,
and left hundreds homeless. Hundreds more are still missing.
Rescue workers worked through the night clearing rocks, trees, and
mud in Funchal and other coastal communities. Assistance will be
needed in the coming days to restore basic services, including
potable water and electric power, and in rebuilding roads. Though
the full extent of the damage will not be known for some time, the
situation is beyond the GOP's capacity to manage. The government
has declared an emergency situation and requested international
assistance. It is in the USG interest to provide assistance. Post
requests USG international disaster resources. END SUMMARY.
3. Although the rains have abated, the U.S. Consular Agent in
Funchal reports that the streets are impassable, either filled with
mud or several feet of debris. In some cases, the tops of cars are
barely visible above the rocks. Major shopping centers were totally
destroyed, with six feet of water filling the lowest floors, and two
or three levels of underground parking completely filled with water.
Many businesses were totally wiped out. The high death toll has
forced authorities to use the international airport as a temporary
mortuary. Emergency teams are working on re-establishing
electricity and water supply. Phone lines have been down; emergency
services have had to send calls out for off-duty doctors and nurses
to report for work via the radio.
4. A growing number of families forced from their homes by the
floods are being sheltered at army barracks and other locations, and
are receiving some assistance from NGOs and local authorities. Many
lost all their possessions and endured traumatic escapes.
5. Portuguese authorities rushed aid beginning February 20,
dispatching a Navy frigate and preparing a C-130 transport plane
loaded with rescue teams, divers, and equipment to clear blocked
roads, replace destroyed bridges, and repair downed power and
telephone lines. Prime Minister Jose Socrates and Interior Minister
Rui Pereira flew to Funchal to meet with regional government
officials, pledging the central government's full support. On
February 22, following a special Cabinet meeting to discuss the
situation in Funchal, Socrates announced three days of national
mourning for the victims and pledged to work closely with the
Madeiran government to assess the damages and to request EU funds to
address the situation. Local authorities announced that a request
to ask for EU funds to face the material losses caused by the storm
would soon be submitted. European Commission President Jose Durao
Barroso, who hails from Portugal, announced February 21 that the EU
stood ready to provide assistance.
6. Madeira is a small community and the U.S. Consular Agent, who has
surveyed the organizations on the ground, advises that Caritas
Diocesana, a Catholic relief services NGO, is currently helping the
hundreds of people displaced by the flooding and landslides.
According to the Consular Agent, Caritas is linked to the diocese
network on the island, has the confidence of the residents, and is
the only NGO that has the necessary infrastructure already in place.
He believes Caritas is best placed to utilize short term
international donations. Post believes that it would be in the best
interests of the USG to provide assistance through this disaster
declaration to this organization. Specifically, Post requests
$50,000 for Caritas to purchase food, clothing, blankets, and other
necessities for the hundreds of homeless people currently living in
7. Due to the humanitarian effects of the flooding and resulting
landslides in Madeira, Embassy Lisbon declares that a disaster
exists and that it is in the interests of the USG to provide
humanitarian assistance. The GOP has requested international
assistance and the situation is beyond its capacity to manage.
USAID/OFDA is requested to make available $50,000 to U.S. Embassy
Lisbon for support to Madeira as described above.
8. Post will continue to track the situation and stay in close
contact with OFDA through post's Mission Disaster Relief Officer,
Deputy Polcouns Mario Fernandez, as the situation evolves and any
other needs emerge.
For more reporting from Embassy Lisbon and information about
Portugal, please see our Intelink site:
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