Eastern Montana Disaster Program Manager Abbra Firman made the long trek from Billings to Saipan last week to help families recover from Typhoon Yutu. Saipan is the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands in the western Pacific Ocean and is about 120 miles north of Guam. It’s a U.S. territory with a population of more than 50,000.
Typhoon Yutu struck the Mariana Islands on Oct. 24 with sustained winds of 174 mph, leaving massive destruction in its wake. Estimates show that nearly 20,000 home were destroyed or damaged and it could be months before power is restored.
Firman is one of more than 170 Red Cross disaster workers on scene helping those affected. Since the typhoon hit, Red Cross and its community partners has provided 15,700 overnight stays and served 98,300 meals and snacks.
“I landed in Saipan at 7:30 a.m. and it was already 85 degrees,” Firman wrote. “As an operations management generalist some folks were excited to see me as many have been here close to four weeks. The AD of planning hadn’t had a day off so I spent the rest of Sunday as her understudy so I could hold down the fort.
“I worked with disaster assessment screening for the next day and a half. I had the opportunity to help many different people. Saipan in an island of diversity and a place where some folks begin the process of work visas and maybe citizenship someday. Despite the devastation, some of these people had waited a long time to get into the service center through heat and rain and then more heat. They were so generous with their smiles and stories. I was moved at how through all that wait there was no anger being expressed, and smiles and quiet words were the norm.
“Thanksgiving was yesterday for us here, and the hotel made an amazing meal.”