“We’ll get through this — we are a resilient people… We need America’s prayers, and we need help, and I don’t doubt that we will get help,” Congressman Sablan told the Associated Press today.
Associated Press (via U.S. News and World Report) — Super Typhoon Yutu crossed over the U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands early Thursday as the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, making it the strongest storm to hit any part of the U.S. this year, the National Weather Service said.
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands’ delegate to U.S. Congress, said the territory will need significant help to recover from the storm, which he said injured several people.
In a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Saipan, Sablan said he has heard reports of injuries and that people are waiting at the island’s hospital to be treated. He could not provide further details or official estimates of casualties.
“There’s a lot of damage and destruction,” Sablan said. “It’s like a small war just passed through.”
Sablan said the entire island sustained damage, but there are areas that are worse than others. He has not been able to reach officials on the territory’s neighbor islands of Tinian and Rota because phones and electricity are out.
“It’s going to take weeks probably to get electricity back to everybody,” he said.
Sablan says colleagues in Congress have reached out to offer help. He expects there will be a presidential disaster declaration put in place.
“We’re surviving, we’ll get through this — we are a resilient people — but it’s just huge,” he said. “We need America’s prayers, and we need help, and I don’t doubt that we will get help. Thank you, America, for always being there for us.”
Nearly 200 federal emergency workers were in the Marianas to assist, Sablan said.
Maximum sustained winds of 180 mph (290 kph) were recorded around the eye of the storm, which passed over Tinian and Saipan early Thursday local time, said Brandon Aydlett, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Tinian suffered a direct hit. Saipan and Tinian will be unrecognizable, Aydlett said, adding that the weather service received reports that Yutu’s catastrophic winds ripped roofs from homes and blew out windows.
“Any debris becomes shrapnel and deadly,” he said.
Fallen trees could isolate residents, and power and water outages could last weeks, the weather service warned.