More federal and military personnel are expected to arrive in the coming weeks as the CNMI slowly returns to normal after being devastated by two typhoons in nearly two months.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said last week that over 900 military personnel are already helping the islands recover from Typhoon Mangkhut (Rota) and Super Typhoon Yutu (Saipan and Tinian) aside from those under the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA is the lead coordinating agency in the recovery efforts, with the help of the local government, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies. Reservists from the Guam National Guard and Hawaii are also part of the 900 military personnel.
“We continue to see the military helping us. We’ve seen more military partnership with our DoD and FEMA. We’re also expecting a couple 100 more FEMA folks in the coming weeks,” said Torres. “They are coming in to assist not only in the recovery efforts but also in the individual and public assistance. They are expected to be pouring out in the coming weeks.”
Water is also flowing throughout the islands. “We’ve seen water across the island, where we have some areas now that have 24-hour water,” Torres said.
He added that that they are now putting up tents for those who have lost their homes and are still living in shelters. “We will continue to see those tents since we ordered [more] prior to the storm.”
The CNMI government and FEMA has implemented a Temporary Emergency Tent and Roofing Support program to assist residents who wanted to return to their homes while repairs are being done.
Assessments and tent installation are being done on Saipan and will also include Tinian and the inclusion of potential roofing repairs. The FEMA-funded TETRIS program will have technical specialists and personnel coming from federal and military partners—U.S. Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy.
The program is available to homes that were identified in the still ongoing damage assessments, and single-family homes, duplexes, and townhouses may be eligible for the roofing component. Apartments and businesses are ineligible for the program.
Homes must be structurally sound for the safety of personnel that would work once a home is approved under the program. All CNMI residents are eligible for the program regardless of citizenship.
Federal and military personnel will be provided by the CNMI’s partners since the Commonwealth is currently experiencing a shortage of contractors and volunteers.
In a separate news briefing in San Antonio, FEMA Region IX deputy regional administrator Bill Roche praised what he describes as an “an overwhelming show of support” to help the CNMI, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Disaster Medical Assistance Team.
Roche said that HHS and DMAT had teamed up with local doctors. “Thousands have availed medical assistance.”
He cited one instance of a trauma situation “where clearly a life was saved because of the actions taken by the team. We still remain to have thousands of federal personnel in the CNMI; FEMA, DoD, HHS, and others.”
He added that there’s still work to be done in providing every available assistance. “We still have work to do. This is a milestone as we get further into this recovery and as we move toward the disaster recovery.”
Seabees from Guam have repaired roofs of houses and other establishments on Rota, with Tinian their next stop.