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HONOLULU, Hawaii (Honolulu Weekly, Dec., 18) - On Dec. 8, Guam suffered its second supertyphoon in a year: Pongsona hit and hung around for hours, packing winds up to 200 mph and severely damaging or destroying nearly 4,000 homes, according to the Red Cross. Then the storm drifted to Rota, where much of the coral reef was reportedly swept away.

In Honolulu, PR honchos Barbara Pleadwell and Ruth Limtiaco quickly mobilized to gather enough donated survival gear (tents, generators, bottled water, etc.) to fill a container, which left for Guam on Wednesday.

"I don't believe that people are truly aware of the devastation in Guam," said Pleadwell, who grew up in Guam. Pongsona was a category 5, or "catastrophic" storm, which knocked over rows of Guam's stubby, concrete, typhoon-proof telephone poles like so many dominoes. The main Guam hospital suffered significant water damage, and patient records were lost. With telephone service spotty, water supplies interrupted and a reported 3,500 people on Guam left homeless, relief efforts will continue for months.

Australian Internet news reported that a Mobil Oil gas tank exploded and that a drydock was adrift in the harbor adjacent to the U.S. naval and air station. In a phone interview with Guam resident Jeff Pleadwell (Barbara's father), he reported that the tank fire lasted four days. "The fire was so dirty that it rained black water," Pleadwell said, adding that it was hard to understand how a tank with safety features could burn for so long. Fuel shortages will hamper the recovery effort.

The National Guard has been called out and emergency shelters are open. President Bush has declared Guam a disaster again. Donations of food and household supplies can be made to city stations around O'ahu; monetary donations should be made out to the American Red Cross, and sent to 4155 Diamond Head Rd., Honolulu, HI 96816.

December 18, 2002

Honolulu Weekly, www.honoluluweekly.com 

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