$20 Million Typhoon Damage In CNMI ‘A Very Preliminary Estimate’

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Government submits expedited major disaster declaration to DC

By Joel D. Pinaroc

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Aug. 6, 2015) – Acting governor Ralph DLG. Torres stressed that the $20 million estimated damage brought about by Typhoon Soudelor when it wrought havoc on Saipan, Tinian, and the Northern Islands last Sunday is based on "a very preliminary estimate."

The estimated damage from one of the strongest typhoons in 2015 was part of Torres’ formal request to the Obama administration for an expedited major disaster declaration for the Commonwealth.

"We went around the island and conducted our own initial assessment. We worked on it and determined that this is the first phase of the request," Torres said, emphasizing that the damage "will exceed $20 million."

[PIR editor’s note: Saipan Tribune reported that ‘The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has issued a boil water notice for all water obtained from the CUC distribution system until further notice as CUC and Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality labs are temporarily unable to test the water for bacterial contamination.’… ‘The Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has made arrangements for the community to obtain water from four reservoirs as an immediate but limited solution to Saipan’s water outage as we continue to restore essential services that were rendered inoperable by Typhoon Soudelor.’ … ‘The Port of Saipan has since re-opened after the U.S. Coast Guard on Monday reported a fuel spill in thousands of gallons from a breached Mobil tank at their fuel farm near the port.’ … ‘According to the initial assessment made by the Emergency Operations Center, some 384 houses on Saipan were destroyed’ … ‘Although water has been restored to the CNMI’s lone public hospital, power is needed as soon as possible for equipment to run smoothly and hospital operations to be in "full use." ... Right now the Commonwealth Health Center is running on a generator, but its CT scanners and a number of other equipment cannot be used.’]

Torres also said he being constantly updated by Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) on the status of the letter of request.

"I believe that the President is aware of the letter. Our Washington delegate is updating me with the status of the letter," Torres said, adding that he hopes to get a response soon.

Torres emphasized that the $20 million estimated damage from Soudelor is neither a "minimum or a maximum."

He said details will be made available as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies continue to do the assessments. "We are going to get more details as much as we can, moving forward," he said.

Torres advised the public to stay home to make it easier for CNMI government to assess the damages.

Priorities

In a somber tone, the acting governor said at this point "we anticipate for the utilities to be back on in a month or so."

He stressed that the main priority is to get water back today [Wednesday].

"We have been working day in and day out, assessing those water pumps, and looking at water wells," Torres said.

He vowed that government agencies will work "all night" to get water restored.

He mentioned that aside from the FEMA, other federal agencies including U.S Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps "are helping the CNMI in assisting and assessing damages."

"I understand the community’s concern on sanitation, and so water supply is the priority right now," Torres said.

FEMA teams

FEMA representative and federal coordinating officer Stephen DeBlasio said there are two FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams deployed on Saipan.

He said the two teams "are embedded with CNMI counterparts doing activities including assessing, assisting, and advising on the island’s temporary power and power restoration, environmental and health-related, and commodity distribution."

He said both federal and local efforts are prioritized to focus on continuity of water and primary power services, and other critical infrastructure such as wastewater treatment.

DeBlasio said FEMA is also in discussion the CNMI government "for a timeline and composition of a joint preliminary damage assessment following the request by the acting governor."

To address the water supply, DeBlasio said FEMA is bringing in 10 125-KW generators from its distribution center in Guam.

"These generators should be here by Thursday evening or Friday. Those units are needed based on initial estimate done by FEMA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," he said.

He added that the generators needed to power water pumps are "coming in by barge and are en route now."

Prayers

Gov. Eloy S. Inos, meanwhile, said he and his family are offering prayers to all those affected by the typhoon.

"My family and I extend our prayers to all of you affected by the damaging effects of Typhoon Soudelor. I also ask you for your patience as our first responders and recovery crews work around the clock in trying to restore the island to normalcy," Inos, in a post on social media, said.

Inos said the acting governor and the HSEM’s Emergency Operations Center "are doing their part in making sure the needs of all of you are addressed during this critical time."

"Please stay safe and know you are all in my thoughts," Inos said.

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