At least 2,500 people were given relief goods yesterday in five separate distribution drives on Saipan.
The one in charge of relief distribution at the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium, A.J. Palacios Murig, told Saipan Tribune that each station—the American Memorial Park, the Koblerville Fire Station, the Kagman Fire Station, San Roque Fire Station, and the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium—were prepared to serve at most 500 people.
However, due to the long lines, a decision was made to split the relief packages to give away more. For example, a large number of those who lined up for relief goods were only able to receive two cartons of water.
The relief packages included some military-grade Meals, Ready-to-Eat, or MREs and some cartons of water.
The relief distributions were scheduled to start at 11am; however, with lines and traffic congestion starting as early as 6:30am, it was ultimately decided to start the distribution earlier.
“We had way more vehicles and a lot of more people waiting in line,” he said, adding that the first thing he saw when he came to the site were people standing in line without vehicles.
“I got here at about 6:45am and there was already a line of about 200 people,” Murig said, which was in addition to the number of vehicles that were already lined up.
The relief distribution was supposed to supposed to be similar to a drive-through system. However, with many people already lined up, it was later decided to allow walk-ins to claim relief packages.
“We couldn’t turn our backs on them because they don’t have vehicles to join the drive-through,” Murig said.
As early as 7am, he noted that the vehicle line already reached Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Chalan Kanoa. The Department of Public Safety saw that as a problem as emergency vehicles could not pass through. The 11am distribution schedule was lifted and Murig’s team was also given the go-signal to start operations.
Murig noted that the team was expecting traffic but not to that extent. He added that the distribution site at the Ada gym had trouble with the felled power poles on southbound lanes.
Come 10:15am, a truck carrying container bins with trash bags, gloves, blankets, and water were further distributed in addition to the relief packages containing the MREs and some cartons of water. However, only those with vehicles were allowed to avail of the container bins and its contents.
Murig was grateful to the volunteers, most of whom were students. There were over 100 volunteers at the Ada gym alone.
“We are very thankful to them for leaving their places and coming to assist the community. We all have things to [clean up] at home, but they all took the effort to help the community and we are very grateful for them,” he said, also expressing gratitude to the four officers from DPS tasked with handling the traffic flow during the distribution efforts.