FEMA DRAWS LESSONS FROM CHUUK LANDSLIDES

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By Ulysses Torres Sabuco Variety News Staff

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 16, 2002 – Marianas Variety)--A federally commissioned geologic survey team is in Chuuk to conduct a study of the state’s land mass and determine future slumping and liquefaction, which will help avoid new deadly landslides.

At least 47 died in Chuuk and over 1,000 homes were destroyed as a result of landslides caused by typhoon Chata‘an last month.

"We need to be very prepared and we have to be very careful with the way we treat our environment," Federal Emergency Management Agency Coordinating Officer William L. Carwile III told Variety.

Carwile said a FEMA team is now in Weno, the capital of Chuuk, to study its "geologic process."

"We’ve got geologic survey teams right now to figure out what the potential is for future slumping … so we can advise people where to go and not to go," he said.

Carwile said the islands inside Chuuk’s huge lagoon are volcanic, with a potential danger of slumping.

The August 2002 issue of Pacific Magazine said Chata‘an "soaked hillsides to the saturation point, slopes liquefied."

The report said there were more than "30 landslides over a period of several hours, sweeping away or burying people and their dwellings."

Most of the deaths and home losses were on the island of Tonoa.

"There were no power or water, no adequate medical supplies as the dead or injured piled up at Chuuk hospital in Weno," the report said.

Carwile said FEMA was able to distribute over "half a million pounds" of relief assistance and supplies in Chuuk.

To avoid similar incidents in the commonwealth, Carwile said FEMA is also sending a five-man team to Rota to train its local counterpart, as part of the federal Hazard Mitigation Program.

The federal government and the CNMI signed an agreement Wednesday allowing the CNMI to receive federal disaster assistance.

For additional reports from the Marianas Variety, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ Marianas Variety.

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