Guam Nurses Flight Turned Back From Chuuk, Couldn't Land

by Mark-Alexander Pieper

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Sunday News): July 21, 2002 - Two local nurses flying to Chuuk yesterday to provide medical assistance to mudslide victims returned to Guam because they could not land.

"They tried three times but the turbulent weather just wouldn't allow it," said Carlotta Leon Guerrero, co-executive director of the Guam-based Ayuda Foundation.

"Just when you think you've got it all covered - that you've got a system to help these people - something like this comes up."

The foundation has been coordinating relief efforts to Chuuk, including the services of doctors and nurses, and the delivery of supplies.

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. The landslides killed 47 people and injured dozens of others. As many as 1,300 people have been displaced, and many staple crops were destroyed, aggravating a pre-existing food shortage, according to Pacific Daily News files.

Soon after it ravaged Chuuk, Chata'an intensified into a typhoon and struck Guam July 5, causing massive damage to island infrastructure.

Leon Guerrero said the two nurses along with an additional nurse are scheduled to leave Guam for Chuuk today. One more nurse is scheduled to arrive Wednesday.

Leon Guerrero said Federal Emergency Management Agency officials informed her three people were expected to be flown in from Chuuk yesterday to receive medical treatment at Naval Hospital Guam.

Naval Hospital officials, however, did not know of the plans, said Lt. Thurraya Kent, Navy spokeswoman.

Because Guam Memorial Hospita is full, people from Chuuk have been sent to The Queen's Medical Center in Hawai'i and Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawai'i, Leon Guerrero said.

FEMA officials earlier in the week asked to use the local public hospital for emergency treatment of six people critically hurt in the mudslides.

But GMH medical director Dr. Davina Lujan said then the hospital had no room for them because it was full and had no beds available.