Chuuk hit hard by Typhoon Maysak

HAGÅTÑA — Relief efforts are underway to help residents of Chuuk as they recover from a devastating typhoon that hit the islands Sunday evening. Meanhwhile, the neighboring state of Yap braces for the same as Typhoon Maysak is expected to intensify into a supertyphoon and pass through Yap by Wednesday.

Though communication with Chuuk was difficult, Carlotta Leon Guerrero, executive director of the Ayuda Foundation, was in communication by email with Kembo Mida Jr., of the Law Firm Ramp and Mida of Chuuk, and an owner of the Level 5 (L5) Hotel on Weno, Chuuk’s main island. Gov. Johnson Elimo was at the hotel as damage assessment reports came in.

A breadfruit tree falls onto a residence and power lines.  Photo posted on Facebook by Joey IwoA breadfruit tree falls onto a residence and power lines. Photo posted on Facebook by Joey Iwo

Mida stated in an early morning email, “We’re in Chuuk and dealt with the typhoon,” said Mida. “I don’t believe it was a category I. Yap must prepare. Chuuk was devastated. L5 also suffered damage from wind and flooding throughout the building. Houses were blown away and trees snapped in half. It was very dangerous and scary.”

Several hours later, Mida provided an update. “We spent all day dealing with flooding and our 5th (floor) was hit hard. But our neighbor’s homes were gone. A ship sank too.”

Yesterday, citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia residing on Guam worried as they anticipated news regarding damage from the storm. “I’ve been trying to call my family and kids all morning,” said Richard Gideon, a security guard from Chuuk. The father of 10 worried about the state of his home and children who live on the big island of Tol.

FSM citizen Ray Rokop, a Guam resident for some 20 years, said he too was worried after learning of the storm. The grocery store manager told Variety, “I tried to make contact all day with my family. I heard from friends that it’s really bad. I think three people have died because of the storm.”

FSM Consul General Robert Ruecho attested to the difficulty of making contact with people in Chuuk “I haven’t been able to speak with the Governor,” said Ruecho. “The phone lines have been difficult today, power is down and so my information is secondhand from the (FSM) capital in Pohnpei.”

Ruecho said he understood that there was heavy devastation. “Lots of flooding and many of the roofs are tin and wood. We heard they were torn off many of the residences and buildings - maybe 80 to 90 percent of homes.”

The consul general said he understood one of the top priorities as Chuuk shifts into recovery mode will be to clear the runway and port so that aid can flow in as needed.

Leon Guerrero sprang into action early yesterday morning and began soliciting aid for the battered islands. “We’re trying to coordinate with the Guam Contractors Association and gather building and construction supplies,” said Leon Guerrero.

She said that the Ayuda Foundation had a commitment from Matson Navigation to ship a container full of books to Chuuk. “There’s space in the container and so instead of filling it with just the books, we’re going to fill it with construction equipment and building supplies to help with the recovery and get it to them as fast as possible,” Leon Guerrero said.

Leon Guerrero said she would also seek medicine and medical supplies in coordination with MAP International, a global Christian health organization; and MedShare, a nonprofit entity that helps disburse surplus medicine and medical supplies.

Leon Guerrero said the U.S. Agency for International Development had a warehouse in Pohnpei that could facilitate the immediate needs of Chuuk residents such as clothing, bedding and toiletries. The Ayuda Foundation can be reached at 473-3003.  

Sen. Michael San Nicolas sent a media release yesterday stating that his office was working with Ruecho’s office and accepting donations for victims of Typhoon Maysak. Donations of clothing, household goods, nonperishable food items and money are being accepted. Contact T’Nelta Mori, at 671-472-6453.

The National Weather Service said the eye of the storm passed directly over Weno. “The highest preliminary wind gusts recorded were 62 knots (71 mph) at Chuuk Weather Service Office as the eastern portion of the center of Maysak passed over Chuuk International Airport.” NWS reported almost 7 inches of rain on Chuuk, with more heavy rainfall possible through tonight.

The NWS advisory also noted that there would be difficulty in communicating with Chuuk residents.

NWS said Yap was Typhoon Maysak’s next target as the storm continues west-northwestward over the next few days and affects several smaller atolls in Micronesia before affecting Yap Tuesday. Maysak is expected to be a powerful typhoon by the time it nears Yap Island.

Ruecho, a former governor of Yap State who was in office during the last major storm in 2002 said he advised the government to plan for the worst. “As they learn from the storm’s strength in Chuuk, they are preparing in Yap and advising residents to secure their homes and seek shelter as needed.”

In Pohnpei

According to the FSM Information Services, Federated States of Micronesia President Manny Mori held more than one meeting on Monday primarily regarding the extent of damage in Chuuk from Typhoon Maysak.

Maysak hit Chuuk on March 29, with the closest point 5 nautical miles north of Chuuk Lagoon, with winds of 80 miles per hour gusting to 100mph.

The outer islands of Yap, including Satawal, Faraulap, Fais and Ulithi as well as the Yap main island were expected to face the storm beginning on the morning of March 30 until late evening of the next day.

Mori has organized relevant national government agencies, namely the Office of Environment and Emergency Management, the Department of Health and Social Affairs, the Department of Resources and Development and the Department of Justice to organize a quick response in the affected areas in Chuuk and to be on the lookout for Yap.

The national government was provisioning the FSS Independence with bottled water and medical supplies to be deployed to Chuuk on the early morning of March 31 as preliminary relief, along with a team of assessors and medical personnel.

According to FSM Secretary of Justice April Skilling, another boat will be deployed to Yap the next day.

As of Monday afternoon, President Mori was prepared to issue an FSM emergency declaration with regard the devastation caused by Typhoon Maysak. He had been on the phone with Chuuk Gov. Johnson Elimo to expedite that process.

By procedure, the state declaration has to be in place first before the president can issue a national version.

Initial casualty reports indicated five deaths in Chuuk from the storm, but there was still a lot of “unknowns” and the situation remained unclear.

There was also a report that power on the island of Weno had been restored as of Monday, although the power system sustained some damage.