Saipan airport opens with limited flights

Tinian airport remains closed

 

The Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport opened yesterday with limited six international flights, while the Tinian International Airport remains closed.

The Benjamin Taisacan Manglona International Airport on Rota is open, while the Rota West Harbor is open for operations as the island was spared by Super Typhoon Yutu’s fury.

Commonwealth Ports Authority executive director Christopher S. Tenorio said late Saturday night that the Saipan airport will be open from 6am to 6pm and that inbound flights are limited to returning residents and humanitarian assistance.

“Passengers must communicate with the airlines directly for flight details and arrangements,” Tenorio said.

He said the airport opened yesterday strictly for commercial airlines for outbound or stranded passengers/tourists who want to leave the island.

He said the operations will be manually processed as a large amount of equipment were damaged. “Therefore, passenger and baggage clearance will be manually screened,” he said.

Tenorio said the airport’s power has not been restored and the generator is not able to power the entire airport. He said Mobil’s backup generator is out of service and they are trying to obtain a generator to power up their pumps to transfer fuel from their facility to the airport apron area.

Tenorio said the water pump that services the main water tank has no power and CPA is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to locate a bigger generator to provide enough power to the water pump.

Tenorio said they also opened the airport runway strictly for humanitarian assistance that are coming in to help Saipan as well as Tinian and Rota.

He said Saipan airport sustained severe damage due to Super Typhoon Yutu and that at this time there is no refueling, the power is not at a hundred percent, the navigation aids are inoperable, and the terminal suffered flooding along with structural damage.

Flights cancellations started Wednesday afternoon—the day of the typhoon. “It’s the airlines that cancelled the flights, not us,” Tenorio said.

The canopy that connects the main terminal of the Saipan airport to the commuter terminal collapsed, but no one was injured, he said.

At the airport’s parking lot, strong winds caused three vehicles to flip over, while a parked small plane was dragged and slammed into the perimeter fence. The plane was mangled due to the strong impact.

On Tinian, Tenorio said only military and humanitarian aid operations are allowed.

He said the port is open but for daylight operations only.

Tenorio said Tinian International Airport also sustained damage and estimated to open within a week.

He said power restoration is currently ongoing at the Tinian airport and this prompted CPA to limit flights to humanitarian and relief goods only.

Tenorio said there is some damage to the Tinian runway lights so they need to replace those first before they even open for light operations.

CPA board financial affairs committee chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds said Super Typhoon Yutu’s damage on Tinian is catastrophic, with many left homeless.

King-Hinds, a native of Tinian, said almost all of the power lines are down and access to fuel is an issue because both gas stations are inoperable at the moment.

“But we hope that with the cooperation and collaboration between the government and the private sector, that particular issue can soon be addressed,” she said.
Tenorio said the Benjamin Taisacan Manglona International Airport is open while it is still undergoing assessment.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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