A ranking official from the Region IX office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency recently visited the CNMI to check on the progress of recovery efforts in the Commonwealth after two destructive typhoons: Super Typhoon Yutu last month on Saipan and Tinian and Typhoon Mangkhut on Rota on Sept. 10.
Robert “Bob” Fenton Jr., who has been with FEMA for 22 years now, arrived on Saipan last Sunday morning and spent Monday meeting local officials and getting updates on the progress being made. He went to Tinian on Monday before leaving last Tuesday night.
While here, he told Saipan Tribune that he could have been here earlier, but the California wildfires pushed back his visit. “I wanted to get here a few weeks ago. I could have been here earlier but I have to also oversee the emergency response during the California wildfires. I was coordinating the emergency response and the logistical support during the wildfires.”
The CNMI is under FEMA Region IX, together with the other Pacific territories of American Samoa and Guam and the states of Arizona, Hawaii, and Nevada.
Natural disasters can’t be prevented, Fenton said, but their effects could be lessened through preparation and planning. “My heart goes out to all who lost their homes. …“I came here to get an idea and understand the response being done. To see how the team is doing. To see the figures, reports, and hear the stories of the people that were severely impacted by the typhoons.”
He was surprised to see the amount of progress that has already been made after Super Typhoon Yutu. “A big step is seeing that the concrete poles—lots of it—have been put up and a lot of areas already have power. That’s both for Saipan and Tinian. More concrete power poles are coming in. The water wells have been generating and are already working. [Garbage] stations have been set up where people can drop off typhoon debris. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, but I’m pleased with the progress and I look forward to the partnerships involved.”
Fenton thanked the local government—led by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang, and Tinian Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas—and their other federal partners that includes the U.S. Department of Defense through the U.S. military.
He said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been overseeing the disposal of hazardous wastes, while household debris like broken electrical appliances and other materials will be shipped off-island through a barge.
“Wood and other green wastes can be burned while tin roofing could be recycled. It is better to check debris and waste. We are also encouraging everyone to recycle in order to reduce the impact to the landfills.”