Updated: May 19
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs has awarded Palau $300,000 in emergency maintenance assistance funding to assist the Pacific nation recover from typhoon Surigae, which left a trail of wreckage last month.
The typhoon, which hit Palau April 16, was estimated to have cost nearly $5 million in damage to infrastructure.
The new disaster-recovery grant augments the U.S. government's relief aid to Palau, which earlier received $100,000 from the U.S. Agency for International Development for emergency shelter, relief supplies, water, sanitation and hygiene support.
“The OIA team is pleased to provide this emergency assistance to support the president and the people of Palau as they continue to build back and recover from the impacts of typhoon Surigae,” said Nikolao Pula, acting assistant secretary for Insular and International Affairs. “We are pleased to help provide support to the people of Palau, along with our other federal partners and in support of our bilateral relationship.”
Typhoon Surigae, one of the strongest to form in the northern hemisphere before May, passed over the north of Palau April 16 closest to Kayangel state with up to 136kph sustained wind speeds causing heavy rainfall and swells, power outages, disrupted communication services, water cuts and road blockages from fallen debris and landslides.
According to the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC)'s April 28 report, all 16 states across the main island and the five outer islands have been affected by excessive rain and high winds, which blew roofs off houses and damaged critical water and power infrastructure in Anguar, Peleliu, Kayangel and Koror.
"Around 301 people evacuated to 20 safe shelters, with no lives lost. Although Surigae was not as strong as previous typhoons Bopha and Haiyam in 2012 and 2013, it has left its population significantly impacted due to its high vulnerability, the compounding economic impacts of Covid-19," IFRC said.
"Much of the population is also traumatized at the short notice provided to secure belongings and take cover. Authorities note that the typhoon followed an unusual trajectory."
“With typhoon Surigae damaging over 1,000 homes, the (U.S. government) continues to support our ally, Palau, with timely funding for communities to rehabilitate homes, schools, and especially healthcare facilities that are making vaccination progress on the fight against Covid-19,” said U.S. Ambassador to Palau John Hennessey-Niland.
The National Emergency Committee estimates damage at $4.8 million across sectors including health, infrastructure, education, food security, community/residential dwellings, communications and utilities.
IFRC said reports of damage to people’s farms and properties pose a threat to the health and livelihoods of the people not only in the outlying six states but also the 10 states on the big island of Babeldaob.
"Reports from Kayangel indicate that rainwater systems were inundated and are no longer safe for drinking, and power is still out, as the electrical equipment has been inundated and rendered inoperable, therefore they are dependent on imported water. Mosquitoes and vector-borne illnesses are also a concern in the areas where electricity is not yet restored," IFRC said in a report.
DOI said the additional funds will be used to rehabilitate and repair schools and health care facilities that were damaged by the typhoon.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) earlier delivered emergency supplies including water and food to the island of Kayangel.
"While no lives were lost, the slow movement of Surigae combined with winds up to 75 miles per hour, heavy rainfall, and significant storm surges contributed to widespread damage and destruction to infrastructure, crops, livestock, and dwellings in several states across Palau," DOI said.
Vaccination progress for Covid-19 and other immunization programs have been hampered due to the widespread damage to households and infrastructure.