Blocked roads hampering Super Typhoon Yutu relief effort in CNMI

4:31 pm on 25 October 2018

The category five storm passed directly over Tinian overnight lashing the islands with winds gusting over 350 kilometres an hour, leaving a trail of destruction across the island and neighbouring Saipan.

Typhoon Yutu damage

Damage from Typhoon Yutu in Saipan Photo: Twitter/ @_ryreyes

The storm was described as the most powerful of 2018, and images on social media show widespread destruction and most communications and power are still down down.

A Homeland Security and Emergency Management officer in CNMI, Nadine Deleon Guerrero, said initial reports indicated Yutu had left a level of infrastructure damage not seen before in the CNMI.

She said although the system had moved to the west of the islands they are advising people to remain inside as adverse weather conditions continue.

Ms Deleon Guerrero said the amount of debris blocking roads was making it difficult to reach people in need.

"And so we are trying to clear that so we can have, we can allow room for our first responders to respond to either residents who have lost their homes and require transport to the closest shelter or for those who require medical attention.

"So so far we have just been asking the community to please remain indoors."

Our correspondent in the CNMI Mark Rabago weathered the storm on Saipan and said it was the scariest night of his life.

He said the winds were so strong they ripped the boards off the windows on his house.

"It was harrowing. It was scary. Just imagine the shutters flew even though it was nailed to the concrete wall. So it was really intense and even me personally I felt like there was a washing machine, or there is like a blower, or very big industrial fan in our house."

Northern Marianas governor Ralph DLG Torres released a statement saying that the community will overcome the effects of the storm together.

"The winds and rain are strong and they have tested our spirits. Already, we know friends and family who are experiencing the worst of these conditions. My heart goes out to all who call the CNMI home."

He urged people to stay safe and not put themselves at risk.

"Emergency responders have been asked to remain temporarily in place as the winds continue to make it too dangerous to travel the roads. But the moment this subsides, they will be rushing to serve our people."

He said while they have been battered by the storm, they will be ready to rebuild together.

Although the western Pacific is where the world's most powerful tropical cyclones tend to form, Yutu's strength is likely to be unprecedented in modern history for the CNMI.

Damage on Saipan after Typhoon Yutu.

Damage on Saipan after Typhoon Yutu. Photo: Twitter/ @TaotaoTasi

The US National Weather Service advisory for the islands warned of "devastating damage" from the "collapse of residential structures," partial or total destruction of industrial and apartment buildings, and loss of water and electricity for days to weeks.

In addition to winds that would flatten structures and forests, a storm surge as high as 7m is possible.

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