Death Toll Climbs In Chuuk Landslides

by Dionesis Tamondong

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News): July 5, 2002 - At least 40 people are dead and more than 100 injured from landslides in Chuuk state in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Those numbers are expected to increase as officials continue to assess the damage in all of Chuuk's islands, said Lynn Narruhn, of the FSM public information office.

Most of the reports have come from and around the main island of Chuuk, because travel and communication to the outer islands has been hampered.

"Nobody can get to the outer islands because the waves are still high ... plus the communications are still down," she said. Unconfirmed reports put the possible death toll at 70, she added.

Heavy rains associated with Typhoon Chata'an battered Chuuk last week. Chata'an was a tropical storm at that time. The typhoon is expected to pass north of Guam today.

Chuuk Gov. Ansito Walter declared a state of emergency Wednesday.

About 30 landslides have buried more than a thousand homes, according to officials assessing the disaster. Winds snapped power lines and floods caused drainage systems to overflow.

Thousands of residents have been displaced to other shelters after the designated shelters on Weno, the state capital, were flooded.

Most of the villages on Weno have reported fatalities and injuries from the landslides. The municipalities of Dublon, Fefan, Udot and Toloas as well as the villages of Mwan and Nepukos also have confirmed deaths and injuries.

Toloas reported the majority of the deaths, 21, with about half of those being children, Narruhn said.

"Officials are still trying to reach the whole outer island chain, including the Mortlocks and the Halls in the northwest region," she said.

Several families whose houses were covered with mud have been rescued, she said.

Power is out in most of the islands throughout the lagoon, she said.