Micronesian atoll recovers dead after worst typhoon in a century
Typhoon Chata'an -- "rainy" in the local language Chamorro -- powered into the vast Chuuk lagoon, west of here, Tuesday and has left at least 31 dead.
But the toll is far from confirmed as the rain and landslides only stopped Thursday morning. The typhoon has intensified and is heading toward the US territory of Guam, where all July 4 events on the island, a major military base, have been cancelled.
There are also fears for dozens of smaller atolls that have not been heard from since the storm.
Officials have appealed to the media to get word out that the atoll desperately needs help. Chuuk Governor Ansito Walter has declared a state of emergency.
Chuuk Disaster Office official John Sound told AFP they had 31 confirmed deaths and 45 seriously injured people.
"We are still searching," he said. "We are expecting many more. We have not been able to reach the outer islands yet."
Most of the deaths were on Tonoa island inside the Chuuk lagoon.
"Whole families are just left with one or two people," Sound said.
"It is a very bad time in Chuuk, there is a lot of suffering and a lot of pain."
No outside help had reached the survivors and they were now desperately short of fresh water, food and medical supplies, Sound said.
The hospital cannot handle all the bodies and many of the seriously ill need surgery which cannot be given.
"Up until now we had been concentrating on trying to rescue people. But now there are many homeless and they are walking around with only one lot of wet clothes on them....
"The food shortage is a very serious problem. We need help." Sound said they believed it was the worst typhoon to have hit Chuuk since the mid-19th century.
The Federal Government Information Service here said so far they had confirmed 20 deaths and that more than 100 people needed urgent hospital treatment.
The service said Chata'an brought damaging winds of over 104 kilometres per hour (65 miles per hour) that ripped through the lagoon with torrential rains that flooded most of the lagoon islands.
Most of the villages on Weno, the main island on Chuuk, have reported fatalities and injuries from landslides.
Thousands of residents have been displaced to newly identified shelters since the designated shelters on Weno, the schools, have also been flooded. Numerous homes have been reported either damaged or buried under mud.
Reports say the storm bought ocean swells of over 3.5 metres (10 feet), battering the low-lying atolls of Nukuoro and Sapwuafik, destroying most of the seawalls and numerous coastlines structures.
Initial assessment reports from the atolls indicated massive intrusion of sea-water onto the land, extensive crop damage and some missing livestock.
The Federated States of Micronesia is a nation of hundreds of tiny islands spread over 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) at the equator between Japan and Australia.
Around 65,000 people (around half of FSM's population) live on a chain of low-lying and mountainous islets with a total land area of just 118 square kilometres (47 square miles) around the vast Chuuk lagoon, at its widest point 960 kilometres (600 miles) across.
Ruled by the Japanese from 1914 to 1945 and known as Truk, Chuuk was the regional headquarters of the Imperial Japanese Navy and many of its ships are on the lagoon floor, making it one of the greatest dive attractions in the world.
The region is known for typhoons and a special breed of "super typhoons".
Copyright (c) 2002 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 07/03/2002 23:10:50
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