Typhoon Yutu destroyed home after home on the Northern Mariana Islands last week, leaving people without power, water and other basic necessities in heat that feels like it’s more than 100 degrees. The American Red Cross is mobilizing disaster workers and supplies to help those in need on the islands.
The islands are located southeast of Japan and are divided into two U.S. jurisdictions – the Northern Mariana Islands and the territory of Guam.
Describing conditions was Denise Everhart, coordinating officer for the American Red Cross disaster relief operation on the islands. “We saw homes damaged, trees snapped in half, cars destroyed. Most everyone we have spoken with has either had major damage or lost their home.”
Nola Hix, a local Red Cross board member, pointed out people need help right now. “I can go without power but water is basic,” she said. “We cannot go without water.”
The storm damaged airports on the islands, making it difficult to send in workers and supplies. The Red Cross is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to transport staff and supplies and the first wave of Red Cross workers are on their way with more being deployed in the coming days.
The Red Cross is supporting all the government-run shelters on Saipan and is helping to provide meals and water to shelter residents. Red Cross workers have distributed relief supplies, such as food, water, buckets, tarps, charging devices, stoves, lanterns, sanitation supplies and more to over 10,000 households. The Red Cross is also supporting family reunification operations, with satellite-equipped vehicles and are also assisting in contacting deployed service members with immediate family affected by the storm, to coordinate their return home to assist their family with clean up and repair.
Red Cross volunteers are continuing to coordinate and conduct joint damage assessments with the Office of the Governor and FEMA, who are focused on helping restore power, opening sea and air ports, and ensuring cell towers can operate on emergency power until utility power returns.
To support the more than 42,000 Americans impacted by this devastating storm, other American Red Cross lines of service, including International Disaster and Humanitarian Services and Service to the Armed Forces will also help along with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and other Red Cross National Societies experienced in providing relief services to the populations of Saipan and Tinian.
RECOVERING EMOTIONALLY FROM A DISASTER Disasters are upsetting experiences for everyone involved. Children, older adults, people with disabilities and people for whom English is not their first language are especially at risk and are likely to need extra care and help. But everyone, even the people that others look up to for guidance and assistance, is entitled to their feelings and deserves support throughout the recovery process. To reach out for free 24/7 counseling or support, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs’ to 66746.
When we experience a disaster or other stressful life event, we can have a variety of reactions, all of which can be common responses to difficult situations.
These reactions can include:
• Feeling physically and mentally drained
• Having difficulty making decisions or staying focused on topics
• Becoming easily frustrated on a more frequent basis
• Arguing more with family and friends
• Feeling tired, sad, numb, lonely or worried
• Experiencing changes in appetite or sleep patterns
Most of these reactions are temporary and will go away over time. Try to accept whatever reactions you may have. Look for ways to take one step at a time and focus on taking care of your disaster-related needs and those of your family.
Keep a particularly close eye on the children in your family. When disaster strikes, a child's view of the world as a safe and predictable place is temporarily lost. Children of different ages react in different ways to trauma, but how parents and other adults react following any traumatic event can help children recover more quickly and more completely. Your local Red Cross can give you information about helping children cope with disaster and trauma.
Recovery Takes Time
Getting ourselves and our lives back in a routine that is comfortable for us takes time.
• Take care of your safety. Find a safe place to stay and make sure your physical health needs and those of your family are addressed. Seek medical attention if necessary.
• Limit your exposure to the sights and sounds of disaster, especially on television, the radio and in the newspapers.
• Eat healthy. During times of stress, it is important that you maintain a balanced diet.
• Get some rest. With so much to do, it may be difficult to have enough time to rest or get adequate sleep. Giving your body and mind a break can boost your ability to cope with the stress you may be experiencing.
• Stay connected with family and friends. Giving and getting support is one of the most important things you can do. Try to do something as a family that you have all enjoyed in the past.
• Be patient with yourself and with those around you. Recognize that everyone is stressed and may need some time to put their feelings and thoughts in order. That includes you!
• Set priorities. Tackle tasks in small steps.
• Gather information about assistance and resources that will help you and your family members meet your disaster-related needs.
• Stay positive. Remind yourself of how you’ve successfully gotten through difficult times in the past. Reach out when you need support, and help others when they need it.
When the Challenges Are Ongoing
Many people have experience coping with stressful life events and typically feel better after a few days. Others find that their stress does not go away as quickly as they would like and it influences their relationships with their family, friends and others.
If you find yourself or a loved one experiencing some of the feelings and reactions listed below for two weeks or longer, this may be a sign that you need to reach out for additional assistance.
• Crying spells or bursts of anger
• Difficulty eating
• Difficulty sleeping
• Losing interest in things
• Increased physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches
• Feeling guilty, helpless or hopeless
• Avoiding family and friends
RETURNING HOME SAFELY The following guidance is for those individuals who have been advised by local authorities that it is safe to return home. Be sure to follow all specific instructions from local authorities related to returning home. The following safety tips are from the American Red Cross and can be found here: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/disaster-relief-and-recovery-services/home-structural-elements.html
• If you had to leave your home, return only when local authorities advise that it is safe to do so. Do not cut or walk past colored tape that was placed over doors or windows to mark damaged areas unless you have been told that it is safe to do so. If a building inspector has placed a color-coded sign on the home, do not enter it until you get more information, advice and instructions from your local authorities.
• If you have children, leave them with a relative or friend while you conduct your first inspection of your home after the disaster. The site may be unsafe for children, and seeing the damage firsthand may upset them even more and cause long-term effects, including nightmares.
Make a careful and thorough inspection of your home’s structural elements:
• Check the outside of your home before you enter. Look for loose power lines, broken or damaged gas lines, foundation cracks, missing support beams or other damage. Damage on the outside can indicate a serious problem inside. Ask a building inspector or contractor to check the structure before you enter.
• If the door is jammed, don’t force it open – it may be providing support to the rest of your home. Find another way to get inside.
• Sniff for gas. If you detect natural or propane gas, or hear a hissing noise, leave the property immediately and get far away from it. Call the fire department after you reach safety.
• If you have a propane tank system, turn off all valves and contact a propane supplier to check the system out before you use it again.
• Beware of animals, such as rodents, snakes, spiders and insects, that may have entered your home. As you inspect your home, tap loudly and often on the floor with a stick to give notice that you are there.
• Damaged objects, such as furniture or stairs, may be unstable. Be very cautious when moving near them. Avoid holding, pushing or leaning against damaged building parts.
• Is your ceiling sagging? That means it got wet – which makes it heavy and dangerous. It will have to be replaced, so you can try to knock it down. Be careful: wear eye protection and a hard hat, use a long stick, and stand away from the damaged area. Poke holes in the ceiling starting from the outside of the bulge to let any water drain out slowly. Striking the center of the damaged area may cause the whole ceiling to collapse.
• Is the floor sagging? It could collapse under your weight, so don’t walk there! Small sections that are sagging can be bridged by thick plywood panels or thick, strong boards that extend at least 8–12 inches on each side of the sagging area.
• If the weather is dry, open windows and doors to ventilate and/or dry your home.
• If power is out, use a flashlight. Do not use any open flame, including candles, to inspect for damage or serve as alternate lighting.
• Make temporary repairs such as covering holes, bracing walls, and removing debris. Save all receipts.
• Take photographs of the damage. You may need these to substantiate insurance claims later.
For those individuals who have been advised by local authorities that it is safe to return home and begin cleanup, be sure to follow all specific instructions from local authorities and local public health officials related to returning home and safe cleanup. For safety clean up tips from the Center for Disease Control, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/cleanup/facts.html
RECONNECTING WITH LOVED ONES Communication is challenging throughout the region. This is a time for neighbors to help neighbors, and, when possible, help each other to reconnect with loved ones. The Red Cross has two ways to help you reconnect with loved ones. The free Red Cross Safe and Well website allows people to register and post messages to indicate that they are safe, or to search for loved ones. The site is open to the public and available in Spanish. Registrations and searches can be done on the website or by texting SAFE to 78876.
The Red Cross Emergency App “I’m Safe” button allows users to post a message to their social accounts, letting friends and family know they are out of harm’s way. The Emergency App is in English and Spanish and is available in app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or going to redcross.org/apps.
HOW YOU CAN HELP Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from this disaster. Help the Red Cross respond to disasters like Typhoon Yutu by donating at redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED-CROSS, or mailing a check to your local office.