Super typhoon Yutu raged through the US Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands on Thursday, leaving behind a storm of damage residents call the worst they've ever experienced.
Yutu was packed for the world's strongest storm this year, grabbing sustained winds of 180 mph, and its gigantic eye enveloped much of Saipan and all Tinian. The Pacific Islands were "mangled" as a local official told Washington Post described. Rescue and relief operations have begun, but officials say their efforts are hampered by still-dangerous weather conditions and widespread destruction.
"We've just been through one of the worst storms I've seen in my entire experience in emergency management," said a statement by Civil Protection Force Commons, known as the CNMI.
After numbers published by Weather Subway, Yutu was tied for fifth place when it comes to the highest wind speeds of any storm at the time of the capture. Only a few storms, like the 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan (which hit the Philippines), were stronger and not very strong, even then. For the United States, only one storm – the Hurricane on Labor Day 1935, which hit the Florida Keys – is considered stronger.
The Northern Mariana Islands are another US territory that has been hit by a severe hurricane in 2000 the last two years. The US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico suffered catastrophic strikes in the hurricane season of 2017, and Guam was recently beaten by the Typhoon Mangkhut.
Overall, the Escalating Impacts on the Pacific and Caribbean Pacific Islands Enhance the Onset of Storms In the face of climate change, small islands are facing some of the most extreme risks on Earth. Many have teamed up in the Small Island Alliance to press for strong action against climate change – Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa are the organization's observers.
Images of the aftermath of the storm in the Marianas appalling. In Saipan streets were littered with fallen pylons and branches. Parked cars were shattered by rubble, some even overturned by powerful winds. What used to be buildings have been reduced to irregular pewter and wood piles. If it were not concrete, it would probably be gone, said Jose Mafnas, a Saipan resident whose roof was torn from his house.
"We heard the can fly out, it was undressed," the 29-year-old lawyer told the Post in a telephone interview, describing the moment when Yutu conquered his roof. "Water penetrated the wood ceiling, and finally the whole ceiling fell to the floor."
He added, "My house and my neighbors' homes are pretty much destroyed … There is only tin roofing everywhere."
The National Weather Service in Guam had warned local residents that the winds were so strong that " Most homes will be severely damaged. "
Still, Mafnas said, he had" found no words "when he saw the devastating Yutu on his island for the first time.
"I knew the damage would be significant, but even come out in the morning. With that knowledge, I was still surprised at how devastating it was," he said.
Frank Camacho, a photographer from Saipan Guam, about 135 miles south when he contacted WhatsApp with family and friends and told the post what they were experiencing.
"Massive floods in homes, roofs are being blown off, storm shutters are flying off concrete structures, buildings are being leveled and the storm is still in the range of 70-100 km / h," Camacho said in an e-mail as the Dawn on October 25th Local time on the islands collapsed. (The islands are 14 hours before the eastern time.) "My sister has just lost all her house on Saipan …. [People] hid in her bathrooms when the eye drove over the islands."
The full The extent of the damage is not yet known, said Nadine Deleon Guerrero, a foreign affairs officer at the CNMI Homeland Security and Emergency Management Bureau, The Post in a telephone interview. Preliminary estimates can not be made until weather conditions improve, but based on "windshield ratings," Guerrero said the devastation caused by Yutu is "five times worse" than that of Typhoon Soudelor, who struck the islands in 2015. Soudelor was the strongest tropical rainforest cyclone in the Pacific typhoon season of 2015. In general, the Northwest Pacific, in which tropical cyclones are referred to as typhoons (not hurricanes), has the most numerous and strongest storms on the planet.
"It's so much damage," she said, "This is the worst storm I've ever seen."
Nola Hix, another Saipanin, told the post about WhatsApp that she had been living through Soudelor and "praying we would never see [that] again" Unfortunately, Yutu Soudelor was "x 20", she wrote.
"We are all grateful that God lives," wrote Hix, adding that the homes of her brothers and mothers have been destroyed. "It was very scary, so I had never heard wind and rain, and it took a long time."
Conditions were equally bleak on the neighboring island of Tinian.
"Tinian was devastated by Typhoon Yutu," Mayor Joey San Nicolas said in a video posted on Facebook. "Many homes have been destroyed, our critical infrastructure has been compromised, and at present we have no electricity and no water."
San Nicolas said that bailouts are currently underway, but access to several points on the island remains "very limited."
"Tinian was destroyed … but our spirits do not have it," he said. "We are in the process of recovering from this typhoon, and we ask for your continued prayers."
Shelters on Saipan and Tinian are full, Bob Schwalbach, a spokesman for Del. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D), the islands representative in Congress, told the Post in an e-mail. Saipan's health center runs on emergency power, and that in Tinian, which currently has no patients, "suffered severe damage," said Schwalbach.
On Saipan, Guerrero said the government's top priority was to help the people who lost their homes. It's not clear yet how many will not shelter, but the number is probably in the hundreds, she said. The plan is to work with local and federal authorities to distribute tents that can survive winds of up to 60 miles per hour.
President Trump declared a disaster in the Mariana Islands before the storm hit, and on Thursday more than 100 federal emergency workers who had been on Guam for the previous typhoon mangrove arrived in Saipan, Rota and Tinian Guam Pacific Daily News.
FEMA Foreign Affairs Commissioner Todd Hoose told the newspaper that the agency was "they do everything they can to control people and ensure their safety."
"Everyone was ready for [Yutu]," said Hoose. "We tested everything, tested and waited for this to happen … Now they are actually putting boots on the ground."
The US Army Corps of Engineers said it has "generators stationed nearby for Yutu – 77 generators in Guam, 1 generator in a Rota Hospital, and 85 additional generators in Hawaii."
Interior Minister Ryan Zinke, whose department is responsible for US territories, recently visited the Mariana Islands as part of a broader voyage to the Pacific. According to the Pacific Daily News, during the trip on climate change, Zinke said, "If it's a priority in the Pacific, it will be our priority."
Zinke issued no formal explanation on the storm on Wednesday, but tweeted, "I'm thinking of my friend Governor Torres and the Northern Marianaans after the typhoon. @POTUS issued a disaster declaration to aid and rest. "
The Northern Mariana Islands, which took the United States of Japan After World War II, here live 52,000 people, most of whom are US citizens or US citizens. Tinian, the island in the center of the storm, was the site of The B-29 Missions Drop Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima Nagasaki was launched, forcing Japan to capitulate.
The Northern Mariana Islands were home to dozens of garment factories, in part because the area was exempt from federal minimum wage requirements and from quotas and tariffs on US textile imports. The industry collapsed a decade ago after tariffs and quotas expired and Congress passed legislation that raised the minimum wage of the islands. The value of its textile exports to the United States dropped from $ 1.1 billion in 1998 to "close to zero in 2010," according to a 2017 report from the US Auditing Bureau.
The area was largely dependent on foreign workers. Tourism is considered an important pillar of the local economy, and a relatively new Saipan casino has spurred considerable building activity in recent years.
While the Marianas archipelago consists of 15 separate islands, about 90 percent of the population live on Saipan, which was severely affected by Yutu. About 6 percent live on the island Tinian, which was hit most directly.
The extreme strike came with little warning when the storm climbed from Category 1 to Category 5 in just one day before landing. The maximum sustained wind speed increased by 80 mph during this time, resulting in a gust of over 200 mph.
Scientists have recently suggested that such dangerous "rapid intensification events" that also happened with hurricanes Michael and Florence could become more frequent as the planet warms and the oceans heat up and provide additional fuel for storms.
Now, all residents can really start collecting the parts of their lives, Mafnas said.
"All we can do is clean up," he said. "It is very unfortunate that Saipan and Tinian and the CNMI have been hit so hard, but I am confident that our people will join together as a community and help each other."