Disaster Team Arrives In Chuuk: Victims May Be Transported To Hawai'i

by David V. Crisostomo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News): July 14, 2002 - Three critically injured landslide victims in Chuuk may soon be transported to Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawai'i, according to relief officials yesterday.

A team of U.S. disaster officials arrived in Chuuk State, in the Federated States of Micronesia, early yesterday and is assessing the medical conditions of those injured in the deadly landslides, said Dr. Michael Cruz of Guam.

The surgeon led a medical relief volunteer team to Chuuk last week as part of assistance provided by the Guam-based Ayuda Foundation, in cooperation with Continental Micronesia. Cruz recommended that the victims be transported off island for medical treatment.

The death toll in Chuuk, located about 620 miles southeast of Guam, remains steady at 47, according to Chuuk officials. But that number may rise because many people are missing.

Hundreds homeless

Dozens of injured people are in the care of Chuuk State Hospital, while hundreds of others are left homeless and crammed in classrooms, churches and government buildings that have been converted to emergency shelters.

Ayuda, a humanitarian relief organization, is coordinating more volunteer medical missions to Chuuk's 11 volcanic islands, to treat victims who have yet to receive care.

"Many victims in the outer islands of Chuuk do not want to come (to the main island) for treatment," Cruz said. "Now we can focus on the more long-term outreach of epidemic and infectious disease control."

Those missions may happen as early as next week, said Ayuda Co-Executive Director Carlotta Leon Guerrero, a former Guam senator. Continental Micronesia, which helped to establish Ayuda, has given seats for volunteer medical professionals and has helped to ship critically needed medicine and supplies to Chuuk for free.

Micronesia has been the primary transport for medical support and supplies to Chuuk.

"The teams that will go will spend more time in Chuuk. They will go to the islands and find the people who need care," Leon Guerrero said, adding that three or four teams may be formed and could stay seven to 10 days in Chuuk State.

"It takes a long time to get to many of those islands," she said.


Relief support from Guam for landslide victims continues to grow.

Leon Guerrero said the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa recently donated blankets and other linens for landslide victims.

Ayuda is receiving many calls from individuals and businesses eager to donate or volunteer their services. The Guam Medical Society has called on its physician members to volunteer for the medical missions to Chuuk.

The Salvation Army is mobilizing its resources to assist victims, said Guam Corps Capt. Dave Harmon. The group is sending relief goods, including canned goods, blankets, shovels, tools and other items.

Father Kenneth J. Hezel, director of the Catholic Campus Ministry, is asking people to pray for storm victims in Guam and Chuuk during Sunday services today.

The campus ministry will hold a Chuukese Mass today at its building in Mangilao. The ministry also is accepting monetary donations for landslide victims, which will be distributed to affected families through parishes in Chuuk's islands, Hezel said.

"What victims need is hope," he said.