More Top Stories


Bigger and busier 2023: PM

31 December 2022

Other Sports

Double gold for Darts

21 January 2023


Covid-19 cases stable: TMO

10 January 2023


Population policy endorsed

10 January 2023


PM Brown vows to change law

23 January 2023

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022


We’re halfway there!

16 November 2022


From the river to the ocean

18 November 2022

Typhoon smashes into Saipan

Wednesday 5 August 2015 | Published in Regional


SAIPAN – Typhoon Soudelor hit the Northern Marianas late Sunday and early Monday, flooding the island’s power plant, ripping roofs off homes and toppling power poles.

A state of emergency has been declared for the Northern Marianas a day after the typhoon hammered Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and the northern islands with winds of up to 170 kilometres an hour at its centre.

Forecasters say the storm is intensifying but is now out to sea.

Hundreds of Saipan residents remained in shelters Monday afternoon. Some roads remained impassable, and power and water services were out.

“I’ve seen multiple primary power poles down. I’ve seen cars flipped over the road. I’ve seen lots of torn roofs,” said John Hirsh, executive director of the American Red Cross in Saipan.

Damage is “extensive” across the island and there have been significant damage to public infrastructure, Hirsh said, after an initial assessment.

The typhoon’s full force was felt between 1.00pm Sunday to around 1.00am Monday, Hirsh said, and at the time, it felt like the island took “a direct hit.”

The acting governor Ralph Torres declared a State of Major Disaster and Significant Emergency for the whole Commonwealth after Soudelor battered the islands through Sunday night.

It is thought Saipan took a direct hit as the eye of the typhoon passed over the north-western Pacific islands.

Saipan is the CNMI’s main island, the seat of government and hub of the local economy. Many hotels and other business establishments line the coast.

About 350 people were in shelters as of noon Monday. Power and water were out, Blanco said, and emergency first responders were still assessing damage Monday afternoon.

Ten patients received treatment at the Commonwealth Health Centre in Saipan for cuts and wounds following the typhoon, said Cora Ada, the hospital’s preparedness response coordinator and acting chief financial officer.

Part of the roof of Saipan’s power plant was ripped off and the plant was flooded, Blanco said.

The status of the Saipan airport and seaport weren’t immediately available Monday.

Flying debris from the storm breached a fuel storage tank on the island, causing thousands of gallons of gasoline to spill into a containment area around the tank.

Coast Guard Sector Guam, which is coordinating response efforts in Saipan, stated none of the gasoline from the ruptured storage tank spilled from the containment area into the ocean.

A separate spill involving 500 gallons of diesel fuel did enter the port of Saipan, according to the Coast Guard. Coast Guard also confirmed that three vessels were blown from their mooring and were aground Monday in Tanapag Harbour.

Response personnel from Sector Guam’s Incident Management Division along with pollution responders and vessel inspectors from Saipan were dispatched to conduct assessments, mitigate the discharges and to coordinate with local responders to secure the scene.

Saipan resident Jacquelyn Belk, sent Pacific Daily News photos of the typhoon damage, including images of downed power poles and vehicles that were flipped over.

“The winds here got pretty intense,” she said. “The wind busted out my bedroom window and flooded the room. I was terrified that my shutters would break my sliding doors.”

When daylight came, she drove to downtown and saw the scope of the damage.

“I saw power lines down everywhere and trees blocking roads. Driving around was like a maze just trying to weave around fallen trees.

“I saw people’s homes that didn’t have roofs and houses that were caved in. There were damage to people’s cars. Looking around was a disbelief that a storm could cause so much damage.”

Stores and gas stations were closed, she said.

Dr Philip Dauterman wrote in an email from Saipan that most phone lines are down. Most of the island lost power and landline services, he said.

“From looking at the damage, I would guess weeks to months to restore power. It took about three to six months to restore service on Guam after Pongsona,” Dauterman wrote. “This is not the total damage of Pongsona, but it is close.”

Typhoon Pongsona left a trail of devastation in Guam in December 2002.

“I am looking through the debris field, trying to guess the strength of the storm. I am guessing at least Category 3, but then there is some damage that is too severe for Category 3, like the picture of a concrete structure with partial structural failure,” Dauterman wrote.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent an advance team to Saipan before the typhoon hit, said Veronica Verde, external affairs specialist for the US agency. Army engineers were assessing the wastewater plant in Saipan, Verde said.

Other federal government representatives are working with FEMA in Saipan, conducting rapid assessments of the power plant, public health and other needs, she said. - PNC