Torrential rains cause landslides and loss of life in Pohnpei

IMG 4809By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
March 20, 2018
Pohnpei—Extreme and continuous downpours over a two day period in Pohnpei led to flooding and multiple landslides over the weekend. Nearly two feet of rain fell during that time.

Patrick Carl, the Chief of the newly formed Division of Fire and Emergency Services of the Department of Public Safety said that as of today they had been able to confirm 10 landslides but that there may have been more in areas that are still unreachable. He confirmed that several homes had been completely destroyed and that others were damaged to the point where they are unsafe to enter.IMG 4752

He also confirmed that as of today, the search for a woman in U who was buried in a landslide has continued without success but said that at the family’s request, the search would end on Wednesday if it had not been successful by that time.

He said that the woman had been walking with her husband into the highlands to farm sakau when the landslide happened. The mud slide buried both of them but as it rushed down the hill, it brought the man back up closer to the surface. He was rescued and hospitalized. Unfortunately, his wife was apparently buried. The search for her began as soon as it was safe to do so. Early rumors that one of their children had also been lost in the slide proved to be unfounded.

IMG 4806One family’s home was completely swept away during the mudslide on the hillside to Sokehs Ridge. No one was injured in that slide.

Carl said that many people’s homes were damaged by flooding but that the biggest damages were to roads and bridges. A bridge in Kitti was undermined and damaged to the point that it was not possible to safely cross. Residents who lived beyond that bridge were forced to turn around and drive around the island in the other direction. Then another flooded culvert in Madolenihmw washed the road away there making it impossible to traverse the island in that direction either.

Even as rain continued to pour, employees of Pohnpei Transportation Authority worked through the night to restore at least a portion of the road at those two places and soon had restored at least one lane at each site.

Carl said that though he is not an expert in drainage matters, he noticed that where drainage pipes at the culverts were round,they failed but if they were square, they tended to hold.IMG 4771

He said that he was impressed that some of the bridges held up to the heavy flood waters as well as they did. There was some damage on some of the bridges but they didn’t go down. He said that he was also surprised that a far greater number of trees didn’t fall during the storm or its aftermath.

Representatives of Micronesia Red Cross Society said that they started performingassessments for assistance on Sunday but that as of today, they still were unable to reach some communities.

They said that only one shelter was opened for one night during the flood. It was necessary to evacuate people who live along the shores of the river IMG 4729in Daini. They were housed for one night at the Kolonia Elementary School.

They said that the MRCS could use cash donations to fund assistance and that their website has a way to donate online. He said that the organization could also use donations of sleeping mats, blankets, food and other in kind donations for families whose homes were damaged.

Chief Carl said that the people of Pohnpei should be mindful of the fact that roads are undermined. There is no guarantee that they will hold in some places. He urges continued caution. Governor Marcello Peterson issued an Emergency Declaration this afternoon.