3 rescued on Rota as house is blown away

19 others on Rota taken to shelter

The screaming winds of Vongfong scared many Rota residents as the typhoon made its nearest approach to the island early yesterday morning, causing debris to fly, downing crops and small trees, and triggering power outages. But the residents’ preparedness paid off as no one was injured and there were only minor property damage.

Three Bangladesh nationals were rescued when their tin and wooden house was “blown away” and damaged. They were brought to the Aging Center on Rota, where 19 other people took refuge for safety, according to Henry S. Atalig, director of Rota Community and Cultural Affairs.

An MCV crew uses a ladder and a machete in Garapan to clear a power line of tree branches that got snagged in the wake of Typhoon Vongfong that passed south of the NMI early Monday morning. Vongfong moved farther away from the Marianas yesterday. (IVAN A. BLANCO)

An MCV crew uses a ladder and a machete in Garapan to clear a power line of tree branches that got snagged in the wake of Typhoon Vongfong that passed south of the NMI early Monday morning. Vongfong moved farther away from the Marianas yesterday. (IVAN A. BLANCO)

Saipan and Tinian also had similar experiences as Vongfong toppled banana stalks and small trees and triggered water and power outages. No one was reported injured.

As of 8pm last night, Vongfong was still moving away from the Marianas in a west-northwest direction at 20mph. It was packing maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour.

Vongfong’s center at that time was 320 miles west-northwest of Rota and Tinian, 330 miles west-northwest of Saipan, and 315 miles northwest of Guam.

A total of 180 people took refuge in different emergency shelters on Saipan, but as of 10:25am yesterday, there were only 164 left as some went back to their homes, according to acting press secretary Ivan A. Blanco.

Blanco said Public School System classes at all levels and non-critical government operations remain suspended today, Tuesday.

In a phone interview with Saipan Tribune last night, Rota Community and Cultural Affairs director Atalig said that strong wind broke down the tin and wooden structure occupied by three Bangladeshi guest workers in Sinapalo.

Atalig said one of workers called the Emergency Operations Center at 2:30am, right in the middle of the typhoon, prompting police officers and an ambulance to respond and rescue them.

Atalig said the three were not injured. They were transported to the Aging Center, the island’s designated emergency shelter, where 19 other persons took refuge.

Atalig said the wind brought by Vongfong was strong, but that 98 percent of the houses and buildings on Rota are concrete and can withstand strong typhoons.

He said fallen trees and debris blocked the roads, but the Department of Public Works immediately cleared them.

Atalig said the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. turned off the power supply for safety reasons and that power was back and running at 4:30pm.

He said most of the damage were in agriculture such as bananas, taros and other crops.

There was no flooding as the typhoon brought winds but not much rains, Atalig said.

Atalig said they felt the typhoon at 2am when the winds started picking up and it was 4am when it intensified.

What the island needs from the central government is funding to purchase fuel for those hauling the debris from roads, Atalig said, adding that, for now, they just pushed the debris to the side of the roads.

Board of Education member Tanya King said no damage was reported in Rota schools.

“We did not detect any damage at all but in fact if there are any flooding I’m confident that principals will expeditiously address those damage,” she said.

Due to inclement weather, Rota teachers were not able to fly to Saipan for the public school’s statewide professional development day. Instead, according to King, development day will be held at the school level.

For today, she said it is her understanding that teachers will be reporting to schools but classes are suspended.

Rep. Teresita Santos (R-Rota) said that based on the information she gathered from residents, the sound of the wind scared people.

Santos said there were flying debris, falling trees, and a few residents had damage to their homes.

Santos said DPW immediately cleared the roads of debris, with the help of the public.

The lawmaker said they would just have to wait for all the assessment on damages, and if it meets the criteria, federal assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross should come in.

“If it warrants federal assistance granted to families, we would really appreciate that assistance,” Santos said.

Estrellita Clitar Mendiola, wife of Rota Mayor Melchor Mendiola, said the municipality and all residents were well prepared, that’s why no one was injured and damage to property was minor.

She said the power was restored on the island at about 1pm to 2pm yesterday.

At 10:30am yesterday, Gov. Eloy S. Inos issued an “all clear” for Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

Inos, however, urged residents to be cautious as emergency crews will be assessing damage as a result of wind gusts and rain.

Blanco said that on Saipan, ports were closed yesterday and there was no water supply islandwide and no power on Feeder 7, 4, and Kiya 1, 2, and 4.

As there was no power, many traffic lights on the island were off. Gas stations resumed operations at 1pm.

All classes and offices at the Northern Marianas College will reopen today, Oct. 7. NMC urges students and employees to continue to take precautionary measures when driving on highways due to heavy rain showers and possible flooding in low lying areas. (with Dennis Chan)

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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