Chuuk Limps Toward Recovery: 46 Confirmed Dead

WENO, Chuuk (Pacific Daily News): July 10, 2002 - There is so much death

Forty-six people have been confirmed dead a week after then-Tropical Storm Chata'an dumped torrential rain over Chuuk and triggered more than 30 landslides throughout the islands in the state.

The death toll is expected to rise.

Many of those critically injured are not expected to survive and officials expect to find more bodies.

"Nothing like this has ever happened here. We were afraid of the storm's strong winds, but we didn't think the rain would bring down the mountains," said Weno resident Kangichy Welle. "So many of our people have died, including the children. Now when we see the rain, we will think mudslides. This will change us forever."

A team of Guam doctors, who arrived Tuesday as part of relief assistance provided by the nonprofit Ayuda Foundation, is expected to remain here until tomorrow to help local surgeons at Chuuk State Hospital treat the injured.

State officials are now focused on assisting the hundreds of people who have been displaced after rivers of mud buried their homes, said Angelino Rosokow, civic affairs officer of Chuuk's Public Affairs Office.

Chuuk State, in the Federated States of Micronesia, is located 620 miles southeast of Guam. About 47,000 people live in the state, which consists of 11 mangrove-fringed volcanic islands in Chuuk Lagoon.

Hundreds homeless

Hundreds of people are homeless and remain crammed throughout the islands in classrooms, churches and government buildings, which have been converted to emergency shelters. The shelters will remain open indefinitely, according to state officials.

At one shelter on the island of Fanapanges, more than 50 people are living in a two- room, tin-and-wood school. The classrooms normally hold 20 students each. They share one bathroom.

Families there have been surviving on the remaining breadfruit on the island, which fell off branches during the storm.

"It's hard to find food for everyone. The landslides destroyed all our crops," said Fanapanges Assistant Mayor Remigio Eseuk. "People who can afford to buy rice share with everyone. They cannot eat while the others are looking at them."

Damage estimate

It is still too early to estimate the amount of damage caused by the landslides, said Tos Nakayama, chairman of Chuuk's Disaster Assessment Team. Members of the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and the Air Force's Civic Action Team are in Chuuk assisting state and municipal officials with disaster assessments.

Nakayama said Chuuk is dire need of canned goods, blankets, clothes and medical supplies.

"Our people are suffering. We are not prepared for this," he said. "We need all the help we can get."