Extensive damage in Saipan and Tinian from Category 5 storm Yutu

Typhoon Yutu, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Rosita, was a powerful tropical cyclone that wreaked havoc over the islands of Tinian and Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as the Philippines. Classed as a Category 5 storm by US scales, it is the strongest typhoon to impact the Mariana Islands on record, as well as the second-strongest system to hit the United States and its unincorporated territories by wind speed, and the third most-intense by pressure. On October 25, Yutu first made landfall on the island of Tinian and the southern part of Saipan at its peak intensity, with 10-minute sustained winds of 130 mph (215 km/h), 1-minute sustained winds of 180 mph (285 km/h), and gusts of up to 190 mph (305 km/h). This makes it the most powerful tropical cyclone worldwide in 2018. Yutu weakened significantly through October 28, though it remained a strong typhoon. Late on October 29, Yutu made landfall in the Philippine province of Isabela with 10-minute sustained winds of 100 mph (155 km/h), with estimated 1-minute winds to be 105 mph (165 km/h) at that time.

The storm wrought catastrophic damage across Tinian and Saipan, destroying numerous homes and killing several people. Violent winds destroyed concrete structures in southern Saipan and stripped areas of vegetation. In the Philippines, landslides and flooding killed at least 15 people and left more than 20 others missing. This is of particular concern to us at the Cathedral because of our long relationship with Irene Egmalis Maliaman, Archdeacon of the Episcopal Church in Micronesia. For a number of years we sent occasional shipments of used clothing and other goods to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Saipan.

Here are slides of the damage, provided by Deborah Wise, Pastor of Saipan Emmanual United Methodist Church (which shares space with St. Paul’s). She reports, “Pictures tell more than words can say. Super typhoon Yutu was very strong and the destructive winds lasted a long time. We got all eye-wall for over ten hours, and about ten minutes of the eye.”

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Archdeacon Maliaman was at the Convention last week, and we have promised her that the Cathedral will help. Following is her most recent status:

For now, what our folks identified they needed (besides basic necessities such as water, gas, power, food which are being taken cared by local and federal government) are power banks for cellphones and flash lights and inverters so they can use car batteries to power small electric appliances such as electric fan, computers, cellphones. I will know more when I visit Saipan on Nov. 9. After service today, I will check if these are available on Guam. If they are available, I think it is better to buy them here so I can bring them with me on Nov. 9. I will let you know ASAP.

We are soliciting donations for St. Paul’s. You may send checks to the Cathedral or place them in an envelope in the plate at any service. Please mark your donation “Saipan”.

The following report is by Coralie Matayosh, of the American Red Cross, Pacific Islands Region (Hawaii, Guam, Saipan).

12 days since Super Typhoon Yutu sprung up out of the Pacific Ocean, 9 days since the winds roared across the islands of Tinian and Saipan with speeds of 185 mph and gusts up to 235 mph. The residents of the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands are working to develop their new normal, in a place without running water, without power and often without a solid roof over their heads. The stories you hear from residents are harrowing. Not only were homes destroyed around them and cars picked up an thrown, but the pressure on their ears and eyes was incredible. This storm was truly a monster. This house had typical roof damage:

Lights are coming back on, but many homes cannot take power to their house. There are 900 power poles to replace on Saipan and 2,000 on Tinian. A much more difficult task when you realize that a lot of the poles have to come from Washington State. We have about 900 people still in shelters, but that is just a fraction of the folks affected.

The sheltering is not what we normally see in the continental United States. 9 days in, there are still no cots, fire department water tankers are supplying water (there are only three and most shelters run out of water hours after being filled) and the shelters are on generator. A lot of the shelters don’t have air conditioning. We are working to move to a better, congregate sheltering – but these shelters needed to be on reliable water and power or we would make a bad situation worse. When I talk about we, I am talking about the Public School System (PSS) – who has the lead on sheltering and is continuing to lead the effort, the Government of CNMI, The Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, FEMA, the Red Cross and more. PSS have dedicated 3 schools to be congregate shelters, until they are not needed. The school system has connex containers that they are moving all of the furniture and school supplies into (with support from the Department of Corrections and the Department of Defense) and they are going to use every classroom and common space to shelter. We are supporting them in this effort with our subject matter expertise, our workforce and supplies. This is going to require moving folks from the south side of the island to the north, but the Commonwealth Transit Authority has set up a bussing plan to go to the villages every 2 hours. Red Cross has been feeding 3 meals a day in the shelters and will continue to do so.

But a big concern are the folks outside of the shelters.  Many are choosing to stay in the storm damaged home – and most of the damage is Major or Destroyed. As I noted above, most homes do not have running water and even when the electricity is restored to the poles it will not be able to be restored to the house.  Families are congregating together in the least destroyed house and eating humanitarian rations.

The big concern is water…both drinkable and non-drinkable (we use those terms here because the folks on Saipan and Tinian will not drink the well water, even though it is potable).  Service members from Joint Region Marianas have been moving water from Anderson Air Force Base to Saipan and Tinian.  On Saturday, we pulled 8 of our Red Cross vehicles (often a rented pickup or SUV) off of whatever they were doing and partnered each Red Crosser up with someone from the Department of Defense and started driving the roads delivering drinking water to the villages. The need is great and we are working with our partners to meet the need.

But non drinkable water is also needed. Folks lost their cars, are not able to carry 5 gallon jugs of water or are afraid to leave their homes to go to a communal place to get water. Often times their water containers were damaged in the storm and they have no way to carry water. The federal government and CNMI government are working to set up water bladders, with water from the wells or the US Ashland (who de-salinates water while traveling from Guam to Saipan). The Red Cross ordered buckets with lids and water purification buckets right after the storm and those items are arriving on island. We will be out doing mobile delivery, helping people get this necessary resource.

Our own [Red Cross] Chapter Building here on Saipan is running out of water (we are also on water delivery) and our generator is chugging along, but often we don’t have enough fuel or it needs to rest. The building is an old WWII Bunker and suffered damage during the storm. But they put the flag back up the other day.