Almost 500 seek refuge in shelters


“When I went to check on our home, there was no home.”

Vic Romolor is one of 66 individuals currently seeking shelter at Garapan Elementary School. With his wife Maggie and their eight kids, he has been there since Saturday, before Typhoon Soudelor ravaged Saipan.

The Romolor’s home is—or was—in Oleai. He says they didn’t get to save much of their belongings save for two futons, pillows, some change of clothes, and some cooking equipment.

With no home to go back to, his family is worried that they’ll be asked to move out of the shelter soon. Romolor said they were told that today would be their last day at the school.

“That’s our question since we don’t have a home,” Maggie Romolor said, responding to where they plan to go.

Jennifer Taisacan and her family have also been at the Garapan school for four days now. She says they were quite luckier than their neighbors in Quartermaster, Chalan Laulau—where many have tin roof and wooden houses—because their home was not completely destroyed, but they still need help.

“We went to take a look this morning and our house is not something to go back to. Everything inside is totally wet, the bed, the clothes, the [pieces of] furniture and the trees are just down,” Taisacan said.

“Going back to stay is not really good because we don’t have anywhere else to sleep and it’s not secured because the roof is off,” she added.

Both families said they are waiting for the American Red Cross to assist them and assess the damage to their homes.

Romolor said he doesn’t have a camera to document the damage.

“I wish I even have a phone just to take a picture,” Romolor said.

“I hope the governor sees the damage and plans something faster than this,” he added.

“I’m just hoping that Red Cross and FEMA are going to be there to help,” Taisacan said.

The Romolos and Taisacans are just two families in Saipan shelters that are almost maxed out. From 153 individuals prior to the typhoon’s arrival Sunday night, shelterees are now number almost 500.

“We have 464 that have taken refuge at this point in time,” public information specialist LJ Castro said.

Castro said most people seeking shelter are those whose houses suffered much damage or those who don’t have homes anymore.

“All of them are people that definitely need help,” Castro said.

According to one of the shelter managers in Garapan, those who still come in seeking shelter are being transported to other centers. The manager said about 28 have already been transported to Tanapag Headstart, Tanapag Middle School and the Aging Office in Chinatown. While shelters have generator sets, Garapan ES has no power and has limited water supply.

Other shelters are Tanapag Middle School, Garapan Elementary School, Koblerville Elementary School, Kagman High School and San Vicente Elementary School, which is the only one still accepting shelterees as of now.

Castro said they are already thinking of contingency plans if the shelters get maxed out.

Red Cross-NMI Chapter executive director John Hirsh said long term shelters have already been established and identified. These are the Kagman Community Center and the man’amko center in Chinatown.

Hirsh said Red Cross is providing breakfast, lunch, and dinner to evacuees at the shelter.

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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