NORTHERN MARIANAS HIT BY TYPHOON

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By Katie Worth

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, June 29) - While Guam’s residents were dealing with the aftermath of record-setting rains, residents of the Northern Mariana Islands were faced with what turned into Typhoon Tingting.

At 6 last night, there were already 231 people reportedly staying in Saipan’s eight typhoon shelters.

Officials at the Emergency Management Office in Saipan confirmed that three Chinese tourists had drowned Sunday afternoon in the waters off the Aquarius Beach Tower in Susupe, which are known to be among the island’s most dangerous waters.

Tingting made its closest point of approach to Saipan around 10 a.m. yesterday, passing about 85 miles to its northeast.

As of 6 p.m. yesterday, Saipan, Tinian and Rota were still in Typhoon Condition of Readiness 1, which had been declared at 2:30 p.m. The islands had been in Tropical Storm Condition of Readiness 1 since the previous night, said Dino Palacios, a response and activity coordinator at Saipan’s Emergency Management Office.

The islands were expected to be given an all clear by CNMI Gov. Juan Babauta last night, Palacios said.

As of 6 last night, the typhoon was approximately 100 miles northeast of Saipan. It dumped 4.97 inches of rain on the island and the winds hitting the island peaked at 68 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Though Saipan’s water had been fluctuating around the island all day yesterday, the island’s water system was still intact at 6 p.m. yesterday, Palacios said.

The winds felled large trees around the island, some of which took out telephone poles, he said. The island also was experiencing major flooding in low-lying areas, driving many residents from their homes. The Emergency Management Office also received calls of homes being damaged by the high winds, he said.

Eight schools had been turned into shelters last night, and Palacios said that hundreds of adults and children were expected to seek shelter in them last night. Summer school was expected to be out of session today, at least.

Palacios said the last time Saipan experienced a major typhoon was in 1997, when typhoons Keith and Paka hit.

The northern islands of Pagan and Agrihan, which are inhabited by only a few families, were closer to the direct path of Tingting, Palacios said, but he said EMO officials had contacted the residents of those islands by radio and they reported no injuries.

Palacios said that though he hasn't been out in the storm to see the typhoon’s impact for himself, reports have been coming in of significant damage around Saipan.

"It’s more than a banana typhoon, as they say," he said.

In neighboring Rota, Mayor Benjamin T. Manglona took to the airwaves Sunday evening to update residents on the status of Tingting. Storm updates were presented on a cable-access channel throughout the night, in both Chamorro and English, for the 3,500 residents living in the island’s two villages.

Emergency shelters were opened at Rota High School in Songsong village and at the new Man’amko Center in Sinapalo as of 5:30 pm Sunday. Heavy rains and gusty winds have been a constant presence here since Saturday evening, although no major flooding or landslides had been reported as of noon Monday.

As of 12:30 pm yesterday, no utility outages, serious damage or injury of any kind had been reported, according to the Rota mayor’s office. However, the winds associated with the storm were particularly damaging to the island's extensive agricultural industry, the office noted.

Freelance writer Brenda Sommer contributed to this report.

June 29, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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