Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres asked President Donald J. Trump today to declare a major disaster for the CNMI.
In his letter to Trump, Torres thanked the President for the ongoing federal assistance provided to the CNMI in advance of Super Typhoon Yutu.
“The typhoon directly impacted the CNMI causing widespread destruction throughout the Commonwealth. Super Typhoon Yutu was the strongest tropical cyclone to impact the United States in over 80 years and the worst ever experienced in the CNMI. This storm comes on the heels of Typhoon Mangkhut, which devastated the island of Rota and caused significant damage in Tinian and Saipan just over a month ago,” Torres said in his letter.
A major disaster is declared by the president upon a formal request from the governor and after a joint preliminary damage assessment is performed during the aftermath of a natural disaster’s landfall.
The president can declare a major disaster for any natural event that the president determines has caused damage of such severity that it is beyond the combined capabilities of state and local governments to respond. A major disaster declaration provides a wide range of federal assistance programs for individuals and public infrastructure, including funds for both emergency and permanent work.
Under this declaration, the president directs any federal agency to help the affected area (including precautionary evacuations), coordinating all disaster relief assistance, providing technical and advisory assistance (issuing warnings, providing for the public health and safety, and participating in recovery activities), distributing medicine, food and other supplies, and providing accelerated federal assistance when the president deems it necessary.
“Pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Act Section 401 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act…I request that you declare a major disaster for the CNMI as a result of Super Typhoon Yutu. Due to the catastrophic nature of this storm, I request that you expedite this declaration without the need for complete preliminary damage assessments,” Torres said in his letter.
“While joint preliminary damage assessments are ongoing, initial surveys of the devastation from Super Typhoon Yutu are grim and far surpass the destruction seen after Typhoon Soudelor in 2015. Tinian and the southern tip of Saipan were both hit directly by the eyewall of Super Typhoon Yutu, causing damage and destruction to hundreds of homes with roofs scattered across the islands. Tropical storm force winds extended south to Rota and north to Agrihan. The power grid has suffered extensive damage, the airport and seaport are still closed, and medical facilities are stressed under backup generators.”
“I have determined this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the Commonwealth government and supplemental federal assistance is necessary to save lives and to protect property, public health and safety, and to lessen the effects of this imminent catastrophe. I am requesting all Public Assistance programs, including direct federal assistance, all Individual Assistance Programs, and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for the entire Commonwealth. Specific direct federal assistance needs include Department of Defense strategic airlift, mass care and sheltering commodities, and generators,” the governor said in his letter.
Torres said that this major disaster declaration request is the first step to providing disaster assistance for residents affected by the storm.
“We are advising the community to wait until this major disaster declaration request is approved by the President. Until that time, please do not apply for disaster assistance on the FEMA website or the FEMA hotline. Applying before a declaration is issued may result in the applicant receiving a denial letter. Please wait until an official announcement from the CNMI Joint Information Center, which is coordinated through FEMA and the CNMI Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.”
“I want to thank our first responders who took time away from their families to support our entire community at this time of need. Our federal partners from FEMA, Department of Defense, to all of our activated federal agencies have been very supportive. The American Red Cross and our volunteer organizations are helping us tremendously on mass care assistance. Most importantly, I want to thank our community for your patience and resiliency. We will not stop until every person in the Commonwealth affected by the storm is back to normalcy. With our strong partnership with FEMA and our federal partners, we will ensure that federal and local resources are dedicated to our people,” Torres said. (HSEM)