Super Typhoon Yutu: Northern Mariana Islands urge US government to assist recovery efforts after storm

‘We want people to remember we are Americans and we exist,’ says lawmaker

Adam Forrest
Friday 26 October 2018 15:14 BST
Super Typhoon Yutu causes damage in US Pacific territory

Officials on a remote US territory in the Pacific have appealed to the Trump administration for help with recovery efforts following the “horrendous” devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yutu.

Residents of the Northern Mariana Islands are set to be without electricity and running water for months, after the category 5 storm wiped out the territory’s infrastructure.

At least one person was killed and several people were injured by spraying glass and other debris, as winds of 180 mph pummelled the islands on Thursday.

Officials touring villages in the islands of Saipan and Tinian on Friday saw crumbling houses, smashed cars, fallen utility poles and the ground ripped clean of vegetation.

Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the territory’s delegate to the US congress, said he wanted President Donald Trump to approve a disaster declaration that would lead to extra resources for relief and recovery efforts.

“We want people to remember we are Americans and we exist,” said lawmaker Edwin Propst, a member of the territory’s house of representatives.

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

A US military plane is bringing food, water and other emergency supplies to the 50,000 people living on the islands.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) said it would aim to help restore power, reopen ports and airports and ensure mobile phone towers can operate on emergency power until utility services return.

An overturned car at the Northern Mariana Islands’ airport

The Trump administration was criticised for its slow response to Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm that hit Puerto Rico last year. The mayor of the unincorporated US territory’s capital San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, said the inadequacy of the response had “killed the Puerto Ricans with neglect”.

Last month, Mr Trump claimed Democrats and Puerto Rican officials had inflated the death toll from the hurricane.

The president refused to accept thousands of people had died, despite a study commissioned by the island’s government putting the number killed at 2,975, and said the revised total was designed “to look as bad as possible”.

Fema has made changes following Hurricane Maria, creating taskforces to tackle areas such as transportation, communications, food and water, and energy and fuel.

The agency has supplies ready to move to the Northern Marianas because it had stored more than 220,000l of water and 260,000 meals at a distribution centre on nearby Guam, to prepare for Typhoon Mangkhut, which struck last month.

The only hospital on the Northern Marianas said it received 133 people in its emergency room on Thursday. Three patients had severe injuries that required surgery.

A 44-year-old woman taking shelter in an abandoned building died when it collapsed in the storm, according to the governor’s office’s Facebook page.

The hospital in Saipan was running on backup generators but otherwise operating normally, said Esther Lizama Muna, CEO of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. She said she expects more patients to seek medical help on Friday and is worried the hospital 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,” said Ms Muna. “So we do expect more injuries trickling in.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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