Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said that planning ahead and the collaboration of various local and federal agencies helped the island of Rota return to normal everyday life after being hit by Typhoon Mangkhut last week.
Rota is still recovering from the devastation brought by Mangkhut’s over 130mph winds, which brought down power lines and damaged homes, but the government had already planned ahead and sent personnel to the island even before the typhoon arrived.
The CNMI Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, in coordination with the National Weather Service Guam, monitored and tracked the weather disturbance before it became a typhoon, giving constant updates about its projected path and time of arrival.
Even before Mangkhut hit the island, local Homeland and Department of Fire and Emergency Management Services personnel were already on Rota, together with Commonwealth Utilities Corp. personnel who brought with them bucket trucks and other equipment. Military personnel from the Joint Region Marianas were also deployed as soon as the weather improved.
Torres said that although he would love to say that they have a timeline set for Rota to fully recover from the storm, they are addressing the issues with the help of their federal counterparts—especially the Federal Emergency Management Agency—and the American Red Cross-NMI Chapter.
“This is the beauty of recovery. You actually see progress along the way. What we do is we look at the total issue, then we come up with a game plan on how to address that. Through our actions, we see progress. I hope that we’ve been exceeding expectations on the recovery efforts,” said Torres.
“For example, we’re hoping to energize the hospital in two days [but] we did it in one. The CUC guys went up everyday. Pulling those lines—power and telephone—was not easy. So thank you to each and everyone of them that go up 30 to 40 feet up there.”
Some services were also quick to be resolved with Bank of Guam and the Mobil gas station resuming their operations a few days after the storm. As of press time, Rota’s power is 95 percent restored while the island has 100 percent water distribution.
Torres said some of the CUC linemen that worked in restoring the power lines were also from Rota. “They left their families and some have also damage in their houses. In fact, when we’re doing the assessment, we saw a house that had a damaged rooftop. I asked if there’s somebody there so we can assess the damage, the neighbor said that it was a house of one of the line crew and that person is not at home since the typhoon. These are the same folks that have also damage in their homes but worked tirelessly for 24 hours to provide power to everybody. I can’t thank them enough for their sacrifice.”
Torres said President Trump acknowledging their request for a state of emergency declaration allowed FEMA to come in as the overall department in charge, where all requests would go through them and they would then relay it to U.S. Department of Defense.
They are finalizing all the assessments of the damage on Rota, Saipan, and Tinian, with the final report to be presented to FEMA. “We will collaboratively collect these and say we have met the threshold for a disaster. We then write the President.”
He added that the NMI Red Cross, which was also on Rota since the day of the storm, would be in charge of distributing all donations—cash and in kind. “There have been so many contributions from across the U.S., Guam, and other neighboring islands. We will turn over everything to Red Cross and they would be in charge of disseminating it.”
“They [Red Cross] are the professionals in that area and they have the experience after Typhoon Soudelor. They would disseminate it fairly and we don’t want it to be an issue where we’re choosing one over the other.”
Sen. Teresita A. Santos (R-Rota) and Sen. Paul A. Manglona (Ind-Rota) expressed appreciation after Wednesday’s Senate session where they passed the final version of the CNMI’s 2019 fiscal year budget.
“On behalf of the people of Rota, we express our heartfelt appreciation to all the agencies, departments, the Governor’s Office, the Legislature, and other entities that extended their support to restore or rebuild Rota,” said Santos
She added that Rota would recover from the tragedy. “Rota will shine. Rota will rise above the storm and find sunshine again.”