Chuuk Asks Northern Mariana Islands For Heavy Equipment

by Jayvee Vallejera

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan Tribune): July 10, 2002 - Two 20-ton dump trucks, an excavator, a loader, a bulldozer, a backhoe and a steel wheel roller.

Besides other priorities, these are the items of equipment urgently needed in Chuuk to help excavate and clear the landslides that have inundated several towns in the state.

Chuuk Gov. Dr. Ansito Walter has asked the CNMI government to make the heavy equipment available, and the Babauta administration is now assessing the equipment it has that could be spared for Chuuk.

Babauta said he has already discussed the matter with the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. and he expects to hear from the utility firm soon whether or not it has the available equipment. Babauta added that they will also determine how the equipment could be sent to Chuuk in the fastest possible manner.

"Much of this heavy equipment that [Walter] is requesting has to do with the mudslides that have taken place in Chuuk and he probably wants to do clearing, more than anything else at this point," said the Governor.

Babauta said that talks with the Legislature on the matter has also prompted lawmakers to check around and see if private companies on Saipan or Guam could help the CNMI in shipping the heavy equipment to and back from Chuuk.

Although the Chuukese Governor has not requested it, Babauta said he is also preparing on standby a medical team, utility personnel and law enforcement personnel who would be sent to the Federated States of Micronesia if Walter asks for them.

"I have been in touch with the Commonwealth Health Center and the Department of Public Safety about ways that we can help other than this specific request for heavy equipment," said Babauta.

Just before yesterday's media briefing, Babauta said he talked with Health Secretary Dr. James U. Hofschneider "and we are prepared to send emergency medical doctors to Chuuk if requested by the Governor."

A team from the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. could also be sent -- if asked -- for the restoration of power lines.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, Babauta quoted Walter as saying that there are now 42 confirmed dead in Chuuk in the aftermath of Typhoon Chata'an.

"He [Walter] said that number could easily increase up to 50 or 60. The injuries are about double that figure," Babauta said. "[On Monday], I had at least two separate telephone conversations with him and I have already conveyed the CNMI's condolences over the loss of lives in Chuuk and that we would try and help in any way that we can."

Chata'an struck the FSM on July 1, slamming into Chuuk with damaging winds of over 65 mph. Heavy rainfall and strong winds caused extensive landslides. Most of the villages on Weno and the municipalities of Dublon, Fefan and Udot have reported fatalities and injuries from landslides.

Walter declared Chuuk under a state of emergency on July 3.