Saipan, Tinian recovery moving steadily


Three months have passed since Super Typhoon Yutu made landfall on the islands of Saipan and Tinian, but recovery efforts continue to move steadily and swiftly in the CNMI. Tourists have returned to our islands. Power and water restoration, stabilized. The Temporary Emergency Tent and Roof Installation Support (TETRIS) mission is expected to conclude in less than two weeks. And the CNMI workforce, back to normal operating hours. Even the majority of private sector businesses have bounced back from the CNMI’s latest disaster.

Although construction of new permanent facilities for the CNMI Public School System and the Northern Marianas College campuses may take a few years to rebuild, 32 temporary facilities have been completed, and is expected to be ready for occupancy in the next coming weeks. An additional 34 structures will be constructed at the Koblerville Elementary School and Northern Marianas College campuses with completion dates expected to be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region IX Regional Administrator, Robert J. Fenton, made his second visit to the CNMI since Yutu last week to meet with CNMI senior leadership and the FEMA operations team spearheading Yutu recovery efforts on Saipan and Tinian. Making his attendance to the inauguration of Gov. Ralph DL. Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold Palacios as well as the inaugural ceremonies of Saipan Mayor David M. Apatang and Tinian Mayor Edwin P. Aldan were also part of his priorities.

During his stay, Fenton mentioned, “Resiliency was key.” Putting redundancy behind resiliency is a key aspect that FEMA in particular is looking to improve in the CNMI. To name a few measures, FEMA looks to replace wooden poles previously installed by CUC post-disaster, with concrete ones. Generators are also being set in place by water pumps to ensure that in the event another disaster happens, power reduction to water wells will not be a factor. Additionally, building more technologically advanced school campuses are on the horizon for the CNMI.

Fenton reiterated, “It’s been a great partnership not only with CNMI officials from the governor to those on the mayoral level, but to the impacted survivors as well… we’ve been treated really well by everyone here. Our staff tries to go the extra mile to look for every available program that will help the CNMI not only recover, but build back stronger and better for the next event.”

TETRIS Program
On Nov. 5, 2018, the CNMI government, in coordination with FEMA, the Dept. of Defense, and Red Cross, introduced the TETRIS program.

The TETRIS program was designed to assist families whose homes were totaled or majorly destroyed as a result of Yutu. TETRIS is expected to operationally sunset early to mid-February. By the conclusion of the TETRIS program, an expectancy of nearly 500 roofs and 1,900 tents will have been installed on both the islands of Saipan and Tinian.

The CNMI government urges any resident who has previously applied for the TETRIS program, and are unaware of the status of their application, to follow-up at Fire Station #4 located in Koblerville.

Although the deadline to submit an application under the TETRIS program has passed, questions regarding the TETRIS program may still be answered at Fire Station #4 where staff are available Monday through Saturday between 8am through 4pm, or by contacting them at 664-9083.

As a reminder, qualifying for the TETRIS program does not disqualify you from FEMA individual assistance programs. If residents have not registered for FEMA assistance, the deadline to do so is this Saturday, Jan. 26, 2018 at 4pm. To apply in person, head to the Multi-purpose Center in Susupe.

Upon anticipation of the TETRIS program concluding, FEMA has begun coordination efforts for volunteer construction professionals to assist with additional temporary home repairs to those who may not have received assistance throughout the duration of the TETRIS program.

Disaster Recovery Center transitioning to Disaster Loan Outreach Center
Last Saturday, Jan. 26, at 4pm, the Disaster Recovery Center on Saipan will close, but assistance will still be available for disaster survivors impacted by Typhoons Mangkhut and Yutu.

Beginning Tuesday, Jan. 29, the Small Business Administration will open a Disaster Loan Outreach Center at the location of the former DRC, the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center on Beach Road in Susupe. Hours of operation will be from 9am to 6pm, Tuesday through Saturday.

The DLOC will be closed on Sundays and Mondays.
At this stage of the recovery process, the emphasis for assistance is to meet the long-term needs of businesses and individuals impacted by Mangkhut and Yutu. SBA customer service representatives will continue to answer questions, explain the application process and help businesses and individuals close their approved disaster loans.

After the DRC closes, survivors whose homes were affected by the typhoons can still check the status of their application, ask questions and learn about the appeals process by logging in to their account at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or calling the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362. Persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585. Toll-free numbers are open daily.

Latest totals indicate FEMA has approved a total of $22.8 million in individual assistance, and the SBA another $75.6 million to assist individuals and business with repairs to their homes or establishments.

Shelter and housing
The shelter population has reduced immensely since Yutu made landfall. To date, the Kagman Emergency Shelter Facility remains the lone operating shelter for residents where the CNMI government continues to house a population of 89 individuals, approximately an 80-percent decrease from the initial shelter population a day after Yutu struck the island of Saipan. Feeding continues for the remaining shelterees as well.

The CNMI government remains steadfast in prioritizing long-term housing solutions for those severely impacted by Yutu.

Permanent housing construction repair and new construction program
Yutu resulted in catastrophic damages to hundreds of homes in Saipan and Tinian, and with very limited options for temporary housing, FEMA has approved the permanent repair program that will fund significant repairs to damaged homes in accordance with high building codes and standards. FEMA has authorized the construction of new homes that will be highly resistant to future storm damages.

To be eligible for the permanent repair or construction funds, homeowners must have registered for disaster assistance and then accept the permanent work in place of traditional FEMA financial assistance.

Starting in the next two weeks, FEMA and CNMI officials will begin meeting with homeowners in small groups to explain the permanent repair and construction programs, review designs for the newly-built homes and answer questions. The permanent repair program is scheduled to start first with more time required to organize the new construction effort. Both programs will begin in 2019. FEMA’s contractors continue to perform on-site assessments of homes eligible for the permanent work program to further refine the requirements and timeline of this recovery effort that will help hundreds of families and make Saipan more resilient in future disasters.

Mitigation efforts
Mitigation efforts are well underway to assist the CNMI with hardening structures, not just within critical public infrastructure, but with also rebuilding residential homes. FEMA staff are currently spread throughout the island of Saipan in various hardware stores conducting outreach to residents who have begun repairs.

Visit one of the following locations to speak to a FEMA representative on best mitigation practices:
• Guang Dong Hardware Jan. 25-26, 8am-4:30pm As Lito Road, Chalan Kanoa
• Hong Ye Hardware Jan. 29-Feb. 2, 8am-4:30pm Afetna Road, San Antonio
• Transamerica Corp Feb. 5-6, 8am-4:30pm Middle Road, Chalan Lau Lau

Power and water restoration
With assistance from power crews out of Colorado, Guam and Micronesia, power restoration on Saipan and Tinian continues post-Yutu. To date, 88 percent of Saipan and 65 percent of Tinian customers have been energized.

As of CUC’s latest service summary, water production was reported to be at 91 percent with 119 out of the 131 water wells operating; reportedly, 114 water wells are online with the CUC power grid and five online with FEMA generators.

On Tinian, the Maui Pump Station remains operational and water is 100 percent online in the villages of San Jose, Marpo Valley, Carolinas Heights, and Marpo Heights I and II. Water production on Tinian is steady at 100 percent online.

A number of public school campuses including the Northern Marianas College sustained major damages post-Yutu. As a result, the CNMI Public School System has had to combine several school campuses into one campus, operating in double, sometimes, triple sessions.

Through the request of the CNMI government, FEMA has begun the construction of 42 new classrooms at the Koblerville Elementary School campus, 32 of which have already been completed, and 24 for the Northern Marianas College which are expected to be completed in the near coming weeks.

NMC looks to return to their As Terlaje campus by Feb. 11, 2019.

Debris removal
Debris removal has been an ongoing mission and continues to be one of the priorities of the CNMI government. Since Yutu made landfall, FEMA has supported the CNMI’s initiative of maximum debris reduction. Part of this initiative included the installation of air burners to reduce the impact to the landfills by burning as much green waste and lumber as possible, and by also putting mechanisms in place to recycle all metals.

Debris related to white goods waste and damaged transformers are being containerized with assistance provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and transported from residential homes to transfer stations by the local Bureau of Environmental Coastal Quality (BECQ) and the Dept. of Fire & Emergency Medical Services (DFEMS).

Once all waste has been containerized and/or incinerated, remaining debris will be shipped off-island for proper disposal and/or material recycling.

The CNMI government continues to ask residents to please separate debris according to classifications of what is deemed acceptable for curbside pick-up. Debris should continue being separated according to the following piles:
1. Green Waste (trees, shrubs, plants, grass, etc.)
2. Tin (roofing metal, metal sheets, etc.)
3. Lumber (plywood, 2x2s, 2x4s, etc.)
4. Household Waste (mattresses and furniture damaged by Yutu, DOES NOT INCLUDE daily household trash)

Day-to-day household trash mixed in with the above piles will NOT be picked up by debris crews. Please move all debris to public easements where it is easily accessible by heavy equipment operators. Crews are unable to enter private property.

Torres sincerely thanks those who have come far to assist the CNMI in our time of need.

During his inaugural address, he recognized, “From the U.S. Navy Seabees, Airforce Red Horses, Guam National, and Air Guard, Guam, Hawaii, and CNMI Reservists and the Marines from Okinawa who placed their minds and their bodies toward our people. This team, in coordination with FEMA, were led into the villages and our homes by our people – our police officers, our homeland security officials, and our firemen, who have instilled in the TETRIS and roof repair programs a sense of purpose and have led this recovery from the front. Our neighbors, our friends, have become family… We will rebuild from this typhoon, we will be stronger for the next. We accept the help and friendship of those who came in our hour of need. To all our partners in Micronesia, we will be there for you, should the need ever arise.”

Palacios also added, “Our islands have endured much in the past three months. And we are on the road to recovery. While we still have a long way to go, progress is underway. Much is expected of our new administration, and we assure you. Governor Torres and I accept the challenges this extraordinary time presents and vow to lead the Commonwealth to a new future.”

Follow the CNMI on social media
The CNMI Joint Information Center (JIC) urges the community to follow the following social media platforms to get the latest weather updates and information:

• CNMI EOC State Warning Point Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cnmieocswp/
• CNMI Office of the Governor Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CNMIGov/
• Gov. Ralph DLG Torres Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ralphdlg.torres/
• CNMI Joint Information Center: https://www.facebook.com/JICNMI/

The CNMI JIC also encourages residents to download HSEM’s readyCNMI App available for FREE in the Apple iStore or Google PlayStore to receive the latest weather updates and notifications.

For more information or media inquiries, contact Nadine Deleon Guerrero, HSEM External Affairs Officer at ncdlg@cnmihsem.gov.mp. (PR)

Press Release
News under Press Release are official statements issued to Saipan Tribune giving information on a particular matter.

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