Typhoon Yutu strikes U.S. Pacific Territory and causes massive havoc

Typhoon Yutu strikes U.S. Pacific Territory and causes massive havoc

U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific were ravaged by Super Typhoon Yutu and around 50,000 people living on the island are currently hoping the federal government will help them as they would live in debris, without electricity and water for months after the deadly storm has hit. 

Authorities were visiting the villages in Saipan and had to pass through broken cars, destroyed crop fields and dozens of people injured from spraying glass and other debris. So far only one death has been confirmed 

“A military plane was bringing food, water, tarps and other supplies” U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman David Gervino said.

The agency fortunately has significant amount of water and food stored. Around 220,000 liters of water and 260,000 shelf-stable meals were stored at a distribution center in preparation for Typhoon Mangkhut that hit last month.

Typhoon Mangkhut did not hit as severely as expected hence the supplies are still available.

“The agency is focused on helping restore power, opening sea and air ports and ensuring cell towers can operate on emergency power until utility power returns,” Gervino said.

The agency has also put together a task force that tackles different areas such as transportation, communications, food and water and energy and fuel. To address each of the concerned areas federal and territory officials will communicate constantly.

Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the territory’s delegate to Congress, said “Residents will need significant help to recover.”

“We want people to remember we are Americans and we exist,” local lawmaker Edwin Propst said.

The National Weather Service said the maximum sustained winds of 180 mph (290 kph) were recorded around the eye of the storm, which passed over the islands of Tinian and Saipan early Thursday. 

The territory’s only hospital in Saipan received 133 people in the emergency room Thursday, and three patients need tending to severe injuries that needed surgery.

Residents “were stoic and still smiling and they were just thankful to be alive,” said Propst, a member of the territory’s House of Representatives. The hospital is currently running on backup generators otherwise operating normally, said Esther Lizama Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. She said she expects more patients to seek medical help Friday and worried they could run out of medical supplies.

“From my experience with previous typhoons, people tend to wait to care for their health as they focus on their homes and others,” Muna said. “So we do expect more injuries trickling in.”

A health center on Tinian sustained damage but was operating normally.

The islands’ emergency management agency said it was trying to clear roadways so first responders could help residents who lost their homes and people could get medical care and head to shelters.

Many structures in Saipan were destroyed and many roofs “completely destroyed.”

“This damage is just horrendous, it’s going to take months and months for us to recover,” Sablan said.

Even the plants were torn up, he said: “There are no shrubs, they’re all gone. There are no leaves.”

The smaller island of Tinian, took a direct hit and most of the houses were destroyed even those made out of concrete were reduced to rubble, resident Juanita Mendiola said.

“We had to hide inside the bathroom because the house felt like it was going to blow apart,” she said. “It was literally shaking — a concrete house shaking.”

“The storm ripped a door of its hinges and flung it more than 100 feet away into a pigsty “she said.

More than 800 people were in shelters across the territory, and space was running out, officials said. Electricity and running water shut down Wednesday and cellphone coverage was lost too residents said. 

Nadine Deleon Guerrero, a spokeswoman for the territory’s emergency management department, said “all of Saipan (population 50,000) and Tinian (population 3,000) islands were without utility power.

Crews were still assessing how long it will take to restore electricity,” she said.

Commercial flights won’t be operable for some time as Terminals, the tarmac, runway and equipment all suffered damage due to the typhoon, she added.

“At its peak, it felt like many trains running constant,” Saipan resident Glen Hunter wrote in a Facebook message. “At its peak, the wind was constant and the sound horrifying.”

Hunter said he doesn’t expect to get power back for months, recalling how it took four months to restore electricity after Typhoon Soudelor in 2015.

Recovery efforts on Saipan and Tinian will be slow, said Brandon Aydlett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“This is the worst-case scenario. This is why the building codes in the Marianas are so tough,” he said. “This is going to be the storm which sets the scale for which future storms are compared to.”

Amber Alberts said she was feeling like “one of the lucky ones” after safely riding out the storm in the kitchen of her apartment. “My place is fine, my car is fine,” she said Friday as she set out to find ways to help.