As daylight faded, rain and winds intensified in Tumon.
Pacific Daily News
Relief workers were out in force on Saipan and Tinian Friday after Super Typhoon Yutu killed one person, knocked out power and water, damaged airports and destroyed houses, schools and businesses.
Essentials such as Food, drinking water and fuel for power generators and vehicles were in low supply on Tinian as of Friday, according to Tinian Mayor Joey San Nicolas.
Yutu’s sustained winds of 178 mph passed directly over Tinian.
Police officers have been helping Tinian residents fill water containers at a temporary station because of water outages, while a private business, Tinian Ice and Water, is giving away limited drinking water. The mayor said the island needs more drinking water while waiting for a water pump to be fixed or replaced.
Tinian Health Center reopened for emergencies on Friday afternoon.
Saipan had extensive power and water outages, and residents said some gas stations remained closed as of Friday.
U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency for Saipan, Tinian and the rest of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
More than 50 medical and public health personnel, along with medical supplies and equipment were moved to Guam before the storm and will be moved to the CNMI, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.
Typhoon shelters on Saipan and Tinian are at full capacity and more may be activated. About 840 people are now staying at shelters, and that number is expected to increase.
The CNMI governor has remained in contact with the Department of Defense on military-supported humanitarian relief efforts.
A 44-year-old woman on Saipan was killed when she sought shelter in an abandoned building that collapsed at the height of Yutu.
“This is an unfortunate incident, but CNMI and federal partners continue to focus on life-saving and life-sustaining operations,” a statement from the office of CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres said.
Esther Muna, chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., on Friday said the hospital on Saipan treated 133 patients, including 40 people with cuts, three severe injuries, two surgeries and seven admissions during the typhoon.
On Tinian, only one injury was reported, she said.
Military planes begin arriving
As of Friday morning, Saipan International Airport reopened, but only for military planes bringing in equipment and personnel, according to Edward B. Mendiola, deputy director of the Commonwealth Ports Authority.
Mendiola said emergency and relief supplies will arrive shortly.
Saipan’s international airport and the commuter terminal remain closed for commercial flights because of damage from the typhoon. The glass in the airport’s control tower was shattered.
Ports on Saipan and Tinian remained closed, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Coast Guard Sector Guam said a C-130 based out of Air Station Barber’s Point in Honolulu was pre-staged in Kwajalein to arrive on Guam and then go to Saipan.
‘Long recovery period’
The CNMI Office of the Governor said there’s a “long recovery period” ahead.
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The CNMI governor put in an expedited request to FEMA for immediate humanitarian relief for displaced residents, even as he announced that relief and recovery efforts are now well underway.
“Food, water, cots, toilet kits, tarps and temporary shelter resources are a part of that request,” Torres said.
The CNMI Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will be opening public areas for drive-by food distribution.
Assessments are ongoing regarding the time frame for water and power restoration.
Water restoration is a power issue, and that will be prioritized, the government said.
Yutu is the strongest storm on record to ever hit U.S. soil and tied for the most powerful storm on earth in 2018, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Across Guam, donation drives are activated to help families on Saipan and Tinian recover from Yutu.
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‘Worst of all’
Yutu displaced hundreds of residents. Across Saipan and Tinian, neighborhoods were flattened and even concrete buildings were damaged.
“Seeing our home totally damaged is a shock, and we can’t believe it’s gone now,” said Saipan resident Tess Matson, who, along with her husband and youngest daughter hunkered down in a room on the first floor of the two-story house after ferocious winds ripped the roofs and walls, early Thursday morning.
Recovery, she said, could take two to three months. Despite the damage to their homes and cars, Matson said she’s thankful her family is safe and alive.
Attorney Jane Mack said she weathered typhoons since moving to Saipan in 1984, but Yutu was the most destructive she’s ever seen.
“My ceilings fell in, so now I have exposed electrical and roof beams. There’s a gaping hole and broken window in the living room. Everything got soaked,” she said.
Mack said she went through Super Typhoon Kim, but because it hit during the day, it didn’t seem as bad. Yutu’s closest approach was around 1:30 a.m. Thursday.
“This one was so loud that I could see lightning out of three sides of my house, but couldn’t hear thunder over the wind and rain,” she said.
Several Saipan and Tinian government departments and agencies have reported major and minor damage to public infrastructure and facilities.
No power, water
There were 200 to 300 downed power poles, 400 to 500 leaning power poles and a large number of downed transformers and conductors on Saipan and Tinian, according to individual preliminary assessments.
Torres said coordination between the CNMI and federal partners have already begun.
The CNMI requested FEMA send 700 to 800 power poles, transformers, and additional materials to begin power restoration.
Federal disaster assistance for Yutu is not available to CNMI residents until a major disaster declaration is requested by the governor and approved by the president, the CNMI governor’s office said.
The joint damage assessments are being coordinated between the CNMI Office of the Governor, FEMA, and the American Red Cross.
Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has also been in contact with the Guam Power Authority for assistance and resource sharing.
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Reporter Haidee Eugenio covers Guam’s Catholic church issues, government, business and more. Follow her on Twitter @haidee_eugenio. Follow Pacific Daily News on Facebook/GuamPDN and Instagram @guampdn.
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