Relief Efforts For Chuuk, Federated States Of Micronesia, Showing Steady Increase

by David V. Crisostomo

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News): July 17, 2002 - Relief and recovery aid to landslide-ravaged Chuuk continues to grow.

Doctors from South Korea arrived in Chuuk yesterday to assist U.S. and Chuuk surgeons treating those injured in devastating landslides that killed people and destroyed homes July 2.

Also, a medical team from Palau is expected to join Guam doctors next week during missions to treat those injured in the outer islands in Chuuk State, which is located about 622 miles southeast of Guam. The medical missions are being coordinated by the Guam-based Ayuda Foundation, in cooperation with Continental Micronesia and the Guam Medical Society.

Nachsa Siren, director of the Department of Health, said the medical assistance provided by Guam, Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawai'i and doctors from South Korea is helping to relieve Chuuk State Hospital's two-surgeon team, which was overwhelmed with about 100 injured patients immediately following the landslides.

"We are now in a good place. We can now focus on the people in the outer islands. There are many there who have not received medical attention," Siren said.

The death toll remains at 47. Dozens of patients are still crowding the hospital's medical and pediatric wards, Siren said.

Torrential rain from then-Tropical Storm Chata'an struck Chuuk State July 2, triggering more than 30 major landslides throughout the state's islands in Chuuk Lagoon.

As many as 1,300 people have been displaced by the deadliest disaster in the state's history. It also destroyed many staple crops, aggravating a pre-existing food shortage.

U.S. President George Bush has authorized federal aid to Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia. The FSM has a Compact of Free Association agreement with the U.S. government that allows the sovereign Pacific island nation to request disaster assistance from the United States.

FEMA teams are in Chuuk assisting state and municipal officials in the aftermath of the disaster.

Japan's government also sent humanitarian aid to Chuuk, providing 10 tents, 1,000 blankets and 10 generators.

Response team

Guam sent the first response team to Chuuk via Ayuda's volunteer team of doctors and other medical professionals, who helped treat the most-critically injured. Ayuda also has been sending critically needed medicine and other relief supplies, including IV fluids, antibiotics and painkillers, to Chuuk through cargo services provided free by Continental Micronesia.

Continental has donated seats for volunteer Guam medical professionals helping in the relief and recovery efforts. Ayuda plans to send teams to Chuuk's outer islands next week to treat victims, said Carlotta Leon Guerrero, Ayuda's co-executive director. Continental is also providing seats for the Palau medical team, which will join Ayuda's efforts.