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Mixed reports on typhoon recovery

Wednesday 12 August 2015 | Published in Regional


SAIPAN – The Emergency Management Office in the Northern Marianas says recovery efforts have progressed well in Saipan, in the wake of Typhoon Soudelor which battered the territory just over a week ago.

The typhoon’s sustained winds destroyed several hundred homes leaving many needing help.

More than 1300 residents have applied for Federal relief assistance and a US Navy ship arrived in Saipan on the weekend carrying significant aid.

Kevin Bautista from the Emergency Management office gave the latest update to Radio New Zealand’s Pacific Beat.

“We’ve been able to clear about 90 per cent of our roadways. Right now, there’s still an island-wide power outage. Limited water capacity has improved. Over 25 per cent of the island has limited water capacity as of now. And that percentage is increasing

“In terms of fuel, a shipment of fuel, as indicated to us by Mobil, will be coming in here on August 18. There is going to be adequate fuel supply for the island.

“There are currently about 541 displaced residents across nine shelters on the island of Saipan. In terms of an estimated time frame as to when they will be leaving those shelters, we do not have one due to the fact that most of the people in our shelters are displaced because of damaged homes or no home at all.

“We are currently in the process of getting these residents to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in order to avail for individual assistance funding so that they can rebuild their homes and regain a sense of normalcy.

“The individual assistance will allow individuals and families to rebuild their homes and as well as some compensation for their personal belongings. We are currently in a mass co-ordination effort to get residents to register with FEMA online . We expect most if not all of our residents to register. About 1300 residents have registered so far.

IM: And so you’re expecting that almost all, if not all, the entire population of Saipan will apply for assistance?

As far a electricity is concerned, Bautusita says they have been given a four to five week preliminary assessment for repairs.

“I can tell you that recovery efforts right now have been going pretty smoothly and we expect that it continues to do so – so that we can gain a sense of normalcy back here on the island of Saipan.”

However, not all involved are happy with the way the post-Typhoon emergency has been handled.

There is an urgent need to “reboot” the way relief and assistance is being carried out for those affected by Typhoon Soudelor, according to Congressman Gregorio Kilili Sablan, who added that some of the relief and assistance operations in the wake of one of the most destructive typhoons that hit the islands in recent memory were just “unacceptable.”

“Obviously not everything is going as planned,” Sablan said.

Sablan, however, said FEMA and the federal government had promised him a “new and fresh” start.

He added that “now is not the time for looking at faults, and I am here to extend help as much as I can”.

“I had a long and contentious discussion with the Federal Government and they promised to start fresh,” Sablan said.

“It’s like Saipan in the 1970s. We are getting our news from the radio like back in the old days,” said Garapan resident Joe Taijeron, legal counsel for the Legislative Bureau assigned to the House of Representatives.

His house withstood the storm, but his family – fiancée Jamika and her six and living with no power or water.

“I see a lot of people rebuilding, and there’s a lot of hammering going on at night. Cleanup is so remarkably slow,” said Taijeron. “There really should be more direct aid to the people, but there isn’t for whatever reason.”

There have been mass cancellations of tourist bookings in the Northern Marianas after Typhoon Soudelor caused major damage especially to Saipan.

The Marianas Visitors’ Authority says 7000 prospective visitors have cancelled their trips to what is now a disaster zone.

The Authority’s managing director, Perry Tenorio, says the typhoon caused the shutdown of night flights, which sparked many cancellations by tourists from countries like China, South Korea, and Japan.