Typhoon Soudelor, Strongest Storm of 2015, Ravages the Island of Saipan

On August 2nd, Typhoon Soudelor, which grew to become the strongest storm of 2015, passed directly over the pacific island known as Saipan, the largest island in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The typhoon uprooted trees, removed roofs, destroyed homes, and left the island without power and water. The last time a typhoon knocked the island’s power system out was in 1968.

Typhoon Damage of Catastrophic Proportions

Debris was scattered across the island and many of the roadways were blocked. Fallen power poles and power lines made it dangerous to be outside even after Typhoon Soudelor had passed. Trees were uprooted and fell over, completely blocking main roads and preventing emergency services access to people in need.

Cars and trucks were crushed under the weight of fallen trees and of collapsed buildings and structures. Many vehicles, including department store delivery trucks, were even overturned by the sheer force of the massive winds that Typhoon Soudelor carried with it.

Power poles snapped and fell over on the roads, and the power plant was severely affected by the strongest storm of 2015, which knocked out the island’s power. Department stores and restaurants were left with their frozen inventory at risk of going to waste due to the lack of refrigeration.


A Cry for Help

Facebook and Instagram were flooded with pictures from citizens of Saipan and cries for help from the United States and the rest of the global community. One user attempted to contact Anderson Cooper of CNN by tagging him and the network in a status update, chastising him for the lack of coverage of Typhoon Soudelor and its damage to Saipan, when he was so quick to cover Hurricane Katrina and other storms in the past. Congressman Ed Propst, a Representative in the CNMI Legislature, said on Facebook, “Now would be an awesome time for our mother country, the United States of America, to come to our aid. I know the protocols and all the formalities with FEMA, but we need more than that right now. Just look at the photos. That should be more than sufficient evidence to declare the CNMI a national disaster area and for aid to come pouring in. Not having power? We can live with that for a while. But not having water? That is a breeding ground for disease.“

“I understand the need for patience, but I also recognize the fact that there are people without shelter, without water, and without transportation. Our people need immediate relief,” he continued.


A Community at its Finest and at its Worst

As with every disaster, Typhoon Soudelor has brought out the best of the community, with people working together to clear roads and offer food to people in need. Glen Hunter, a local resident of Saipan and the owner of The Shack, a local restaurant, posted, “Shack has a lot of frozen meat that need to be used or taken before it thaws out. If you would like some please call me before 11:30am today. Whatever is not taken a can bring to Salvation Army or other groups. Please call if you can use it.” He then followed it up an hour later with the comment, “Just got word that a bunch of families are camped out in a building nearby. They lost their homes. Gonna get them most of it.”


However, the strongest storm of 2015 has also managed to bring out the worst in some people. Melisha San Nicolas, another resident of Saipan, posted, “So there was this mother carrying her baby who walked into a store here on Saipan and the store owner had to close because of electric issues. He said ‘sorry we closing, come back later.’ The lady was pleading can she just buy milk for the baby cus the baby was crying cus she was hungry. The owner still turned her away and told her to come back later. The mother had walked far cus her husband was in the mile long gas line. Situation broke my heart.” However, she took this as an opportunity for an act of kindness, and she drove the woman to another store, which gladly gave her what she needed even though it was closed.


Hope for the Future

Typhoon Soudelor has left the island of Saipan in despair over all of the destruction it wrought upon the community and its infrastructure, but it also gave the residents of Saipan hope, as the community at large came together and united to help those in need until more assistance could arrive. Over 300 residents have had to seek relief shelters, as their homes were destroyed in the storm. If you wish to help the people of Saipan who have suffered from Typhoon Soudelor, visit the Saipan Red Cross page at http://www.redcross.org/mp/saipan.


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