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By Katie Worth

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Jan. 6) - Islands in the outer regions of the Federated States of Micronesia report a steady recovery after their beating by November's Typhoon Lupit.

Lupit hit the outer islands of Yap and Chuuk states in the FSM on Nov. 25, destroying many of those islands' buildings, water and power supplies, and their ability to feed themselves.

The worst damage was to the crops, destroying some islands' entire supply of taro, coconut, breadfruit, and other crops that the islands rely on to feed themselves and their families. Some islands were completely washed over by massive waves that saturated the earth with saltwater, meaning it might be a year or more before crops will grow again.

Santus Urbemo, an assistant chief of an island in the Farualep atoll in eastern Yap state, was interviewed via satellite radio on recently. Some of what he said was translated through Michael Dabchur, who is a radio operator at the University of Guam's PEACESAT, a satellite radio station. Urbemo said his atoll, which he said has a population of about 274, is slowly recovering.

For a while, Urbemo said, many island residents used the school and the few other cement buildings on island as a temporary shelter while they rebuilt their homes. Most residents have now moved out however, and school was expected to begin again yesterday, after the normal holiday break.

He said most of the crops in the atoll had been devastated, but some had survived the storm and new breadfruit was sprouting. He said it would be some time before those would produce fruit again.

The water system had been destroyed by Lupit, he said, and the water situation was very tight for a while. The island survived on 40 bottles of water dropped by a relief plane, giving that water to infants and the very sick. However, the system is back up and the island has potable water again.

Now the islanders are waiting for a supply of rice to be brought in by ship -- relief they are expecting later this week, Urbemo said.

He said that there had been some health problems related to the typhoon, specifically diarrhea, stomach aches and vomiting, but those had been solved once a clean water supply was up again. Other islands in Farualep's area were fairing similarly, he said.

Joseph Edhlund, who's small airline Sky Blue Air was solely responsible for transporting food, water and medical relief to the islands in the days after the typhoon, said he had not flown to the islands in recent weeks because the Federal Aviation Administration had not permitted him to do so.

However, he said he had been in contact with his friends in Ulithi and other outer islands of Yap, as well as the governor and lieutenant governor of Yap state. They had told him that things had temporarily stabilized for the outer islands, and heavy had solved the critical water shortage on many islands.

He said he is working with FAA officials to reinstate a permit to fly to those islands so he can complete delivery of about three tons of food and other supplies collected for delivery.

Maite resident Joann Rama, who is from Ulithi, said she and her husband spent Christmas on Ulithi with their family.

"They're very much recovering, but you know the drinking water is not really good down there, and they have few sacks of rice, but they are doing pretty good," she said.

She said that though the crops were not in good shape, most of the buildings on the island had been rebuilt. She credited the quick recovery was a result of teamwork.

"The main houses have all recovered, and that's because they get together and help each other build," she said.

January 6, 2004

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