NMI Recovery Impresses FEMA Official

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa | 18 Jan 2017

AN official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency was impressed by the way in which the commonwealth recovered from the devastation caused by Typhoon Soudelor in Aug. 2015 as she commended non-profit organizations such as the Commonwealth Advocates for Recovery Effort for their hard work.

Zina A. Manalo, FEMA’s emergency management specialist public assistance-crew leader, said CARE and its volunteers did a tremendous job in helping the community recover from the natural disaster.

She said the CNMI has been a role model of a community that works together.

“To see an island that is so small recover from a disaster so quickly and coming together to become stronger is something that not a lot of people from the mainland see,” Manalo said. “Our communities in the mainland have more commodities, more access to government and volunteer agencies, they have more contractors and forms of assistance, but here in the commonwealth, it’s hard to get volunteer agencies, donors and donations and recovery groups or people with that capacity. FEMA can only do so much, but this small island came together from nothing to something. We from the mainland watch these things happening, how you started from scratch and now you have something to give back to the community.”

Manalo attended CARE’s annual meeting on Tuesday in the governor’s conference room to discuss the status of the recovery efforts.

Manalo said her family is from Guam, but she lives now in the states and has witnessed how the CNMI is working together and standing strong which makes her proud and happy.

“It’s part of the culture and I’ve seen it in Guam, Honolulu, and Puerto Rico, so if the islands can do it, the mainland can also do it. The CNMI community is doing a tremendous job and I am proud of all the people here, the community, the volunteers, the agencies and the government for standing strong and doing a great job,” Manalo said.

According to CARE executive director Jenny Hegland, 2016 was the start of the island’s long-term recovery from Typhoon Soudelor.

She said all their hard work paid off as CARE managed to secure in-kind support in the amount of $416,000 and $437,000 in monetary donations to help rebuild homes.

FEMA, for its part, provided funding assistance for the off-island skilled volunteers who flew to Saipan to help rebuild and repair the homes of affected families.

According to the CARE report, 358 families or 1,324 individuals received some form of assistance to help in their recovery.

The report indicated that $572,966 was allocated to families to rebuild stronger homes.

Fifty-four families received beds, refrigerators and other household items essential for long-term recovery.

Hegland said there are already 132 families, as of this time, who have received building materials or labor assistance to rebuild their homes.

She said 185 families were able to recover on their own, but there are still 307 families who need assistance or have no safe, permanent homes, some still living in tents.

Hegland said their priority for this year is to look for additional resources to help these 307 families.

For his part, acting Gov. Arnold Palacios said he, too, was impressed by the island’s recovery and CARE’s outstanding work in assisting the community.

“Very impressive. We’ve come a long way from devastation. It’s been a long time since the island has established efforts or assistance like this and I can say that CARE is doing a tremendous job in helping our community,” Palacios said.

“Our government has to step up also, and we need to set aside some resources to assist CARE. We encourage them to submit a request for additional funding that the Legislature can consider in the next fiscal year,” said Palacios who is the Senate president.

Hegland said CARE is willing to address any other issues or challenges that the community is still facing.