Typhoon Vongong Makes Crisis On Rota Much Worse

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CNMI island left in ‘state of disaster’

By Jayson Camacho

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Oct. 9, 2014) – Typhoon Vongfong spared much of the CNMI but on Rota, where it came closest to at 18 miles, it left behind damage that, compounded with other lingering issues, has left the island in what could only be described as a "state of disaster."

Vongfong, which has since been upgraded to super typhoon status, overturned fruit bearing trees, damaged crops, and caused other mayhem that have exacerbated the crisis besetting the CNMI’s southernmost island.

"Rota is currently in a dire financial crisis," Rota Resort and Country Club owner Hee K. Cho said yesterday.

Cho told Saipan Tribune that there hasn’t been any ship that would bring goods to Rota for almost two months now.

A barge was supposed to come in last Monday, according to Sen. Victor B. Hocog (R-Rota), but this got cancelled because of the rough waters brought by Vongfong.

Cho told Saipan Tribune that Rota appears to be undersupplied once again over the course of October leading into November.

"All supplies have been flown in, exponentially increasing the price of a 50-lb sack of rice to more than $55. The people cannot afford basic necessities such as rice and butane gas," Cho said.

In an earlier report, Rota resident Denise Tanya King complained about the non-functioning ATM of the Bank of Guam and the erratic flights of Cape Air that has taken a toll on some people.

This was echoed by Cho, who said, "Cape Air’s never ending stream of mechanical failures has also left stranded people in need of medical attention."

According to Cho, Sen. Paul Manglona (R-Ind), Sen. Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota), and Rota Mayor Melchor Mendiola have already contacted him in their many attempts to spread awareness of their people’s suffering.

"It is our desire to see that the people of Rota have a better life," Cho said.

To show his gratitude as a member of the Rota community, Cho said he would gather all the inventory that he can muster and distribute a month’s supply of rice and butane gas to every house on Rota this Friday, Oct. 10, especially to those in dire situation.

"I acknowledge that my efforts will not cure even a small fraction of the people’s problems. But however small a difference, I want to do what I can to help our community," Cho said.

What’s happening now

Rep. Teresita Santos (R-Rota) told Saipan Tribune yesterday that she is on Rota right now to check on the situation.

Santos said that Songsong Village is clear; however, there are still areas that need to be worked on and that trees felled by Vongfong’s strong winds are still blocking secondary roads.

Santos confirmed that the supply ship has not been coming in because of the inclement weather.

"The water is rough and therefore the boats cannot make port on Rota. It has been an ongoing concern about supplies coming in," Santos said.

Hocog told Saipan Tribune yesterday that they are now working on solving this problem with Luta Mermaid LLC that will soon arrive on Rota.

Luta Mermaid will operate a cargo and passenger ship called M/V Luta, a 150-foot, 500-ton cargo ship.

Hocog said that once the U.S. Coast Guard certifies the vessel, M/V Luta would make a substantial difference in bringing in commodities to the island "because [with] the barge, you have to tow it. If it is a cargo ship, it will be easier."

He said the vessel should be on Rota early next month.

"This is what we need in terms of bringing in food and supplies. We are pushing hard to move the cargo ship down to Rota but because of the stringent requirements of the Coast Guard, they held back the departure of the ship," he said.

Hocog said he and other Rota lawmakers will be meeting soon to address the problems on Rota.

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