Super Typhoon Yutu Levels a US Island, Closes Airport

Oct 26, 2018

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Super Typhoon Yutu hit the Northern Mariana Islands yesterday causing chaos and destruction in the US territory. Both of the major islands, Saipan and Tinian, were extensively damaged by Yutu. So far one death has been reported by the storm, killing a 44 year-old woman on Tinian.

Yutu is reportedly the strongest storm to ever hit a US territory and the second strongest to hit the US overall. Winds reached 178 mph as the eye of the storm passed directly over Tinian.

The Northern Marinas Islands has a population of 55,000 people and the 300-mile archipelago includes 14 atolls. 100 homes were destroyed in Tinian, and many structures were severely damaged or leveled in Saipan, reports the New York Times.

“Tinian has been devastated by Typhoon Yutu,” the city’s mayor Joey P. San Nicolas said Thursday, according to USA Today. “The homes, main roads have been destroyed. Our critical infrastructure has been compromised. We currently have no power and water. Our ports at this time are inaccessible and several points within the island are inaccessible.”

US Delegate for the Northern Mariana Islands Kilili Sablan reported the destruction to the Saipan, Tinian and Rota’s airports and other transportation.

Saipan International Airport (SPN) “sustained significant damage; most flights cancelled” while Tinian’s airport (TIQ) runway is now usable. Images shared on social media show the devastating hit Saipan’s airport took, including shredded aircraft, flooded terminal’s and collapsed awnings.

While Saipan and Tinian aren’t massive airports, they do provide a vital link to the outside world for the otherwise isolated islands. United operates passenger service with a Boeing 737 from Guam (GUM) to Saipan, which is an add-on destination to the carrier’s storied island hopper route.

The Guam Daily Post reports that once Saipan’s runway is clear, a US Coast Guard C-130 is scheduled to land with emergency relief workers on Friday night. Additional flights with emergency relief supplies will follow. US President Donald Trump has issued an emergency disaster declaration for the Northern Mariana islands.

“It’s one of the most powerful typhoons I’ve seen in my life,” said former NMI Governor Juan N. Babauta. “There’s widespread destruction of property, from homes to cars. There’s also destruction of utilities. Power poles were knocked down, blocking main and secondary roads.”

Yutu isn’t finished yet — it’s currently headed west and is expected hit the Philippines and Taiwan next week. The US Navy shared this map of the Yutu’s predicted path.

The Red Cross said that hundreds of people were seeking refuge in government-run shelters that are now at capacity — adding that it has workers on the affected islands to help. It’s sending in more staff and coordinating with the governor’s office and FEMA to help. You can help by visiting redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Featured image via Edward Russell / Twitter.

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