Obama declares disaster in Marianas

2015-08-06 22:54
Barack Obama at American University. (AP)

Barack Obama at American University. (AP)

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Honolulu - President Barack Obama has declared the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands a disaster area and is ordering federal aid to help the US territory in the aftermath of a destructive typhoon.

The White House on Thursday announced the disaster declaration for Typhoon Soudelor, which destroyed homes, snapped utility poles and toppled trees over the weekend on the 125km2 island island of Saipan.

The commonwealth remains without electricity and water, and residents are rationing fuel. Most major roadways have been cleared of uprooted trees and debris, Saipan resident Glen Hunter said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said damage surveys were ongoing. More than 500 people on Saipan were in shelters, according to the Red Cross.

About 50 000 people live on the commonwealth's four populated islands, with most residing on Saipan, which took the brunt of the storm.

Nearby Tinian got some damage, while Rota was spared, said Gregorio Kilili Camcacho Sablan, the commonwealth's delegate to US Congress.

As for Pagan, "No idea," he said. "I have no way to contact Pagan."

Ten generators were being shipped from Guam to power water pumps in Saipan, but the harbor was closed Thursday because of a listing boat that was half underwater, Sablan said. Restoring power could take a month or two, he said.

"I haven't seen a storm like this in 20 years," Sablan said. "Unfortunately, the resources we have are hardly enough to get things up."

The storm battered the island with wind speeds between 160km/h and 190km/h when it hit Sunday night, the National Weather Service said. The eye of the typhoon was moving west, heading to Taiwan. It was about 1 200km east-southeast of Taipei on Thursday, the National Weather Service said.


In an area that's used to typhoons, Sablan said he and others were expecting it to pass with maybe 130km/h winds.

That there were no reports of deaths or serious injury "seems almost impossible," Hunter said.

There was a $20-per-vehicle limit on buying petrol, which meant motorists could get only about 15 litres, Hunter said. Some easily burned through that amount while waiting in long lines at the pumps. On Thursday, the limit was increased to $50, Sablan said.

Governor Eloy Inos was on vacation visiting his children on the US mainland.

"He's doing everything he can to come back home. ... He's very anxious," Sablan said.

But Sablan said he told Inos to stay put: "Just remain there. Things here aren't necessarily working."

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us  |  weather

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