Government of the Federated States of Micronesia

FSM Week in Review / Week of April 20, 1997 - Program No. 12-97 (Information on the Disaster in Pohnpei)

PALIKIR, Pohnpei (FSM Information Service): April, 1997 - Pohnpei is experiencing the worst disaster in history after flooding and unprecedented mud slides in various parts of the island on April 20, 1997. Two major land slides occurred in Iohl and Oumoar villages of Sokehs Municipality which took the lives of seven people and twelve are still missing as of Wednesday morning, April 23rd. Five victims found dead at the Iohl site were buried yesterday (Tuesday), three at a family cemetery at Iohl and two, which include a young mother and her four year old daughter were buried at their family home in Kolonia. Burial ceremonies were held in Sekere, also on Tuesday evening, for those two found at the Oumoar site, which include a father and his son. Six people remain missing at Iohl which include former Chief Magistrate of Sokehs, Francisco Kirielmo, Marcelino Kirielmo, oldest son of Chief Pwoud Lepen Palikir, and his two children and two close relative minors. The FSM National Police retrieved the bodies of the young mother and her four year old daughter from under thick debris and dirt of about six feet. Search efforts at Oumoar site have reportedly been called off while Iohl will continue today with the assistance of the FSM National Police.

Acting President Jacob Nena on April 21st, has requested U.S. President Bill Clinton to declare a major disaster for the Federated States of Micronesia in the State of Pohnpei as a result of the destruction caused by Typhoon Isa and its aftermath. On April 20th, Pohnpei State Governor, Del Pangelinan, declared a State of Emergency based upon the damage and destruction caused by the continuing effects of the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isa, which he said now a super typhoon. Acting President Nena told President Clinton that rivers and streams in Pohnpei State got flooded according to Governor Pangelinan's declaration with loss of property and life. From midnight on April 19 to 4:45 a.m. on April 21st, Pohnpei experienced more than 12 inches of rainfall. Sometimes between 11:00 p.m. and midnight on April 20, 1997, a land slide occurred in Sekere and a house was buried in mud with eight persons still missing as of Tuesday. Another land slide, a major one, occurred at Sokehs village of Iohl which sent four people to the hospital, three reportedly in critical condition, five dead and six still missing. Flooding and mud have hampered rescue operations making it impossible to move heavy equipment to the two sites. In response to this disaster, Pohnpei is continuing to assess the damage and commencing the relief efforts.

In addition, further to the request of the Governor of Pohnpei State, President Jacob Nena issued a Presidential Declaration to facilitate the rendering of National Government assistance to the affected states. Said Presidential Declaration declares a state of emergency in Pohnpei State as a result of this natural disaster, which in turn has caused an imminent threat to the health, safety and welfare of the people of the affected areas. Further, Acting President Nena has authorized the expenditure of funds from the National Disaster Relief Fund to supplement the efforts and available resources of Pohnpei State. Such expenditures may be used for necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical supplies, compensation for crop damage, transportation, debris clearance and repair of damaged property. In view of the foregoing, the Acting President has determined that this disaster is of such severity and magnitude that an effective response is beyond the capabilities of the Federated States of Micronesia, the affected State, and local government, Nena told President Clinton that supplemental assistance is needed from the United States Federal Government. President Nena requested President Bill Clinton that he declare a major disaster exists in the State of Pohnpei and that Federal Supplementary Disaster Assistance be made available as follows:

Individual and public assistance, to include the Individual and Family Grant Program, DOE Assistance, and SBA Disaster Loan. In implementing the Individual and Family Grant Program, Nena certified that the Federated States of Micronesia and Pohnpei State will assume its 25% share of the costs of the program. Nena further certified that, for this major disaster, the Federated States of Micronesia and Pohnpei State will assume all applicable non-United States Federal Government share of costs as required by law. Acting President Jacob Nena said that preliminary estimates of the types and amounts of assistance needed (is) still being assessed and will be forwarded to President Clinton under separate cover. Nena concluded by telling President Clinton that "most of the victims of this natural disaster are from low income families and desperately need more assistance than we have been able to provide." Nena requested that the processing of this request is expeditiously made. Governor Pangelinan has proclaimed on April 22, 1997, that all Pohnpei State flags shall be lowered to half-mast for three days for the honor and respect of those who have died in this disaster.

For further information on this release, please contact:

FSM Office of the President
Public Information: Press, Radio, Video
P.O Box 34
Palikir Station, Pohnpei, FM 96941
Tel.: (691) 320-2548/2092
Fax.: (691) 320-4356