New Kagman shelter eyed as permanent long-term shelter

Tents that are fully air-conditioned also house some of the shelterees within the large yard of the long-term shelter in Kagman. (Erwin Encinares)

The new Kagman emergency shelter facility is already being eyed as a possible permanent long-term shelter for future typhoons—if needed.

According to Department of Community and Cultural Affairs Secretary Robert Hunter, the former juvenile detention facility in Kagman would serve as a great shelter for future typhoons.

“We have this beautiful facility sitting up here. It is hardened like a bunker—no damage from that terrible typhoon. Nothing at all,” he said.

The former juvenile detention facility had been sitting abandoned for four and a half years, Hunter noted. To adequately prepare it as an emergency shelter, DCCA staff had to do heavy cleaning to get it ready.

In order to make official the designation of the site as a permanent long-term shelter facility, it would need to obtain the blessing of the governor and the Legislature, he said.

“…We are going to need to go through the Legislature and the governor. Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, of course, has given us the green light to do this,” Hunter said.

The facility, according to Hunter, has functioning air-conditioning units and a generator. A reverse osmosis system similar to those used in hotels already exists within the facility, along with a good plumbing system and running water.

The facility also boasts metal windows and bulletproof glass.

“…It still needs some work but, hopefully [in the future], when we have typhoons, we won’t need to close down the Saipan Aging Office and schools under the Public School System [and use them as shelters],” he said, adding that some PSS schools still sustained heavy damage despite their emergency shelter status.

In contrast, the former juvenile detention facility in Kagman “sustained no damage,” he added.

Besides being strong as a fort, the long-term shelter in Kagman is spacious enough to accommodate a large number of shelterees and provides children with a yard to run around and play.

Hunter noted that the facility could accommodate a maximum of 700 shelterees “if necessary.” As of yesterday, the shelter population is estimated to be at about 205 to 210, about 90 less than the expected 300.

The current shelter population includes the shelterees from the Kagman Elementary School, Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School, Tanapag Middle School, Saipan Aging Office, and the Hinemlu O’hala Para Enteramenti Recovery Center, or the HOPE Recovery Center in Marpi.

Military-style tents that are equipped with air-conditioning units have also been erected near the Kagman facility.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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