Just one week after Typhoon Soudelor wrought destruction upon the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, leaving the island of Saipan without power and water and over 380 homes destroyed, the strongest storm of 2015 made landfall in Taiwan and continued its wrath all the way to China.
Millions Without Power
In keeping with its previous job of leaving over 45,000 people without power on the island of Saipan, Typhoon Soudelor knocked out power for over 4 million people when it made landfall in Taiwan. This was a record-breaking figure, with 1996’s Typhoon Herb holding the previous record for power outages, having left 2.79 million people without power during its wrath. When Typhoon Soudelor hit China after wreaking havoc on Taiwan, more than 1.4 million people suffered power outages due to the strong winds battering Fujian province.
A Killer Storm
Typhoon Soudelor became more violent after leaving Saipan, evolving into super typhoon status and causing even more damage in Taiwan and China. Upon landing in Taiwan, the strongest storm of 2015 claimed its first five lives, left five people missing, and seriously injured over 180 people. When the storm hit China’s Fujian province, it was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved across the mainland, but that did not change its impact. Mudslides caused by the storm in Zhejiang province killed nine people and left three other people missing, putting the total count of dead or missing due to Typhoon Soudelor at over 20 people.
Things Can Be Replaced, But Lives Cannot
Upon hearing the news of Typhoon Soudelor’s destruction in Taiwan and its claiming of lives, residents of Saipan were quick to post on social media expressing their sympathy for the people of Taiwan and their relief that no lives were lost in the CNMI due to the storm. One person commented that the damage to the island of Saipan was indeed severe, and people were still without water and power and had lost many of their belongings, but at least no one lost their lives as a result of Typhoon Soudelor. “Things can be replaced, but lives cannot,” he said.
Frustrations and Obstructions to Cleanup Efforts
The island of Saipan is still in a state of disarray after Typhoon Soudelor hit it, but residents are coming together to help clean up the island. Despite their best efforts, however, certain factors are proving to be frustrating obstacles for progress with clean-up efforts. Harry Blalock, a resident of Saipan, posted about his experience with trying to take a truckload of debris to the local dump, saying, “When I pulled up to the window the guy said I would have to pay, and it would be expensive because it was so heavy, because it was a company truck, even though it was all from my residence. He said if it was a privately owned truck I can bring 500 pounds a week for free. I asked what would happen if I helped out my neighbor and brought some of their debris because they didn’t have a truck, he said I would have to pay for it. He suggested I talk to his boss, who gave me the same line. I asked if emergency procedures haven’t been put in place so people can begin the clean up from the typhoon, he said no, that nobody has told them to do anything any differently as a result of the typhoon.” Congressman Ed Propst, a Representative in the CNMI Legislature, said, “Every elected official should line up like everyone else, whether it is for gas or water or paying your bills. We work for you,” in response to numerous reports that certain elected officials were bypassing the long lines by using government position privileges.
Saipan Strong: A Community United
In the aftermath of the strongest storm of 2015 hitting Saipan, the community has united to help relief efforts. After numerous residents made an effort to get the situation on Saipan known to media outlets in the United States, the story finally broke on several local networks in states like Oregon and Hawaii, which led to President Obama declaring the Northern Marianas a major disaster zone, and enabled federal aid to start pouring in. FEMA has since stepped in and the U.S. military has been helping with relief efforts on the island of Saipan. On Saipan, companies like Star Water have been providing free drinking water to communities and every resident has been putting forth whatever effort they can to help out. Nola Hix, a resident of Saipan, posted, “Just delivered sandwiches courtesy of our friends at the Hyatt Regency Saipan to the CNMI Salvation Army. Thank you so much Hyatt!” In the wake of such devastation brought on by the now killer storm Typhoon Soudelor, it is important for everyone in a community to do their part to help everyone else out in any way they can, and this is evident in the everyday efforts of the people of Saipan.