Damage assessment efforts have begun in the wake of Typhoon Soudelor, which hit the island late Sunday.
Representatives of the federal government and members of the U.S. Army Corps began arriving in the CNMI as of 3pm on Tuesday, after flights resumed to the CNMI, according to press secretary Ivan Blanco.
Blanco said that government representatives have begun an initial assessment of the situation on Saipan.
Acting governor Ralph DLG. Torres, who earlier declared a state of emergency for the entire Commonwealth, is expected to transmit the declaration to President Barack Obama “either today or tomorrow,” Blanco said.
The CNMI government earlier said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working with the CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management Office to conduct the assessment.
“Value of damage to homes, infrastructure, and property is not available at the moment,” Blanco said, adding that the FEMA will conduct the actual assessment—by documenting the damage—starting this coming weekend.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan said “that the federal government is moving quickly to assist in this state of emergency.”
He said the FEMA has deployed “an Incident Management Assistance Team to Saipan, and FEMA is working with the Commonwealth government to support the disaster response effort and make a preliminary damage assessment.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have also deployed personnel to assist, he said, adding that food, water, cots, small generators, and other emergency supplies are being shipped in from Hawaii and Guam.
“The Army Corps is ready to provide larger generators for the hospital and wastewater treatment facility, if needed,” Sablan said.
Sablan is also urging affected members of the community to document and report any damage to the Office of Mayor, which will be used for the assessment.
According to Red Cross-NMI chapter executive director John Hirsh, FEMA will be supporting the relief operations of the local government as well as non-profit organizations.
He said the government is now working on an emergency declaration to send to the White House for faster response.
“We’re closely coordinating with our local government and our federal partners and we’re working with them all day long in terms of how they can provide assistance that can relieve the human suffering that’s been going on,” Hirsh said.
He added that at least a dozen relief specialists from their offices in Hawaii, Guam and California will be arriving on island in the next 48 hours.
“That will help build our capacity to help respond to as many people as quickly as we can,” Hirsh said.
Hirsh is urging the community to report to them the damage that families suffered in their homes.
“What we’re trying to do is have them call in the chapter and then provide us with some information about their family and where they live and the types of damage that they have and then were adding that to our electronic data base,” he said.
“We’re also sending teams out to the community. I think we have five teams this afternoon who are scouring the islands looking for people who are affected,” he added.
Hirsh said they also have volunteers on Tinain assessing the damage.
The Salvation Army is also monitoring the shelters and helping out in recovery efforts.
According to Pastor Wayne Gillespie, they are exploring ways to get services to shelters.
He also announced that they will be opening their soup kitchen everyday for everyone who needs help as soon as the roads are cleared.
“We’ll be here for the people of Saipan,” Gillespie said (With Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva)