Reflecting on the Recovery of the Northern Mariana Islands Since Typhoon Soudelorby Representative Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan
Posted on 2015-12-15
of the northern mariana islands
in the house of representatives
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Mr. SABLAN. Mr. Speaker, on the night of August 2nd and through the
early morning of August 3rd this year, Typhoon Soudelor lashed through
the Northern Mariana Islands, causing widespread destruction to homes,
businesses, and infrastructure, uprooting the lives of the people I
represent here in Congress.
Today, I want to reflect on that event, and on the exceptional grace and generosity that have made recovery possible.
The typhoon's impact was especially grave on Saipan, the most populated island in the [[Page E1790]] Northern Marianas. Soudelor rendered hundreds of families homeless overnight. It also decimated infrastructure--knocking out power and water systems, shutting down the ports, ravaging the college, schools and other public buildings.
Survival is a way of life in our islands. We are accustomed to bracing ourselves through tropical storms and picking ourselves up when skies clear. But the sheer ferocity of Typhoon Soudelor caught us all off-guard. Even the National Weather Service failed to foresee the force of this storm.
That there was no loss of life is testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of our people. And we are grateful to Providence for sparing us.
As long as we live, those of us who experienced Soudelor will not forget the wreckage we saw the morning after. Nor will we forget the hardship that followed, the long hours in line for food and fuel and other necessities, the days of physical suffering and distress, the weeks without power and running water.
Soudelor tested our infrastructure, our government, and our capacity as a community to deal with disaster.
Now, however, four months after the storm, I can report that conditions are greatly improved, since that long and terrifying night in August.
Electricity is restored, and residents have daily water service. Streets have been cleaned in our villages and commercial districts. Students are in school. Businesses have reopened. Workers are employed again. Families are putting their lives back together.
Though there is still much to reconstruct and strengthen to be better prepared and more resilient than before, it is remarkable how far we have come on the road to recovery.
So, today, I want to thank all those who contributed to this successful response to adversity. There are so many individuals and organizations. It is not possible for me to know and name each and every one. Their collective efforts prove how much can be done, when people work together towards a common goal.
First we thank the American people, who gave without hesitation to fellow citizens in need. When all is said and done, American taxpayers will have contributed an estimated 100 million dollars in federal disaster aid to feed those who had no food, shelter those who lost their homes, repair residences and replace lost property, reopen shops and return the economy to life, revive the power and water systems. In doing all this, they gave us the hope that we needed to work our way to recovery.
We thank President Barack Obama and Governor Eloy Inos for their leadership in ensuring the prompt availability of resources to address the state of disaster in the Northern Marianas.
We thank the Federal Emergency Management Agency team, led by Federal Coordinating Officer Stephen De Blasio. FEMA's collaborative spirit set the tone for the response, working with other federal agencies and responders to aid the thousands of typhoon survivors.
We thank our U.S. service members, who mobilized quickly to produce and distribute drinking water, clear debris, clean up fuel spills, and transport critical supplies and equipment.
We thank our Commonwealth emergency management crews, utility workers, police officers and firefighters, healthcare professionals, educators, and other local government employees, who answered the call to serve even as their own families were picking up the pieces of their shattered homes and lives.
We thank our local businesses, shuttered by the storm, who nevertheless rallied together to raise funds for the recovery effort.
We thank the legions of volunteers--of all ages, all religions and races, many survivors themselves--who came forward to share food, water, clothing, shelter, and comfort with their fellow human beings.
And we thank our friends from throughout the Pacific region, and indeed throughout the world, for sending supplies, expertise, and equipment by air and by sea to help us back on our feet.
Today, the marks of Typhoon Soudelor are still to be seen in homes and businesses yet to be repaired, debris yet to be removed. But beneath these physical scars, a new strength is arising.
A new community-based working group known as CARE--the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Efforts--has emerged. The people in CARE--from all walks of life, private and public sector, formal and informal organizations--are committed to rebuilding our island home so that it is stronger and better than before.
With this newborn spirit of hope, cooperation and interdependence I am confident that we will succeed.