SAIPAN – Typhoon Soudelor leaves path of destruction
HONOLULU — President Barack Obama has declared the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands a disaster area and is ordering federal aid to help the American territory in the aftermath of a destructive typhoon.
The White House today announced the disaster declaration for Typhoon Soudelor, which destroyed homes, snapped utility poles and toppled trees over the weekend on the 48-square-mile island of Saipan.
The commonwealth remains without electricity and water, and residents are rationing fuel. Most major roadways have been cleared of uprooted trees and debris, Saipan resident Glen Hunter said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said damage surveys were ongoing. More than 500 people on Saipan were in shelters, according to the Red Cross.
About 50,000 people live on the commonwealth’s four populated islands, with most residing on Saipan, which took the brunt of the storm.
Nearby Tinian got some damage, while Rota was spared, said Gregorio Kilili Camcacho Sablan, the commonwealth’s delegate to US Congress.
As for Pagan: “No idea,” he said. “I have no way to contact Pagan.”
Ten generators were being shipped from Guam to power water pumps in Saipan, but the harbour was closed today because of a listing boat that was half underwater, Sablan said. Restoring power could take a month or two, he said.
“I haven’t seen a storm like this in 20 years,” Sablan said. “Unfortunately, the resources we have are hardly enough to get things up.”
Wind speeds during the storm were between 100 miles per hour and 120 miles per hour. In an area that’s used to typhoons, Sablan said he and others were expecting it to pass with maybe 80-mile-per hour winds.
That there were no reports of deaths or serious injury “seems almost impossible”. Hunter said.
There was a $20-per-vehicle limit on buying gasoline, which meant motorists could get only about four gallons, Hunter said. Some easily burned through that amount while waiting in long lines at the pumps. Today, the limit was increased to $50, Sablan said.
Governor Eloy Inos was on vacation visiting his children on the United States mainland.
“He’s doing everything he can to come back home . . . . He’s very anxious,” Sablan said.
But Sablan said he told Inos to stay put: “Just remain there. Things here aren’t necessarily working.”