An emergency was declared in the Micronesian state of Chuuk Wednesday as Super Typhoon Maysak cut a destructive path across the centralPacific leaving at least five dead and extensive damage.
Crops were ruined and water supplies contaminated, with fears people faced starvation if they did not get aid soon, after the violent storm took three days to cross the vast Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
“Governor Johnson Elimo declared a state of emergency (in Chuuk) due to damage by Typhoon Maysak, including five deaths,” FSM President Manny Mori said in a statement, indicating foreign aid would be needed to support relief efforts.
He did not specify where the deaths occurred, but earlier reports said five people were killed on Chuuk.
There was extensive damage to “schools, health facilities, public utilities, private residences, and the sinking of several fishing, passenger and dive ships,” he said.
An emergency task force has been set up to look at all sources of funding “such as potential foreign partners and donors” to get the relief operation under way.
Victoria Bannon, North Pacific representative for the Red Cross, said the charity was on the ground in Chuuk and Yap and “in full mobilisation mode”.
She told AFP they had access to pre-positioned relief supplies such as tarpaulins and ropes for shelter, buckets, cooking sets and lanterns, while a ship full of aid set off from the state of Pohnpei on Tuesday, stopping at islands where help was needed.
“We will do full assessments only when it is safe to do so, in coordination with the government,” Marshall Islands-based Bannon added.
“We have had informal reports from Yap of serious damage to buildings and crops.”
Maysak, with sustained winds of 260 kilometres per hour (160 miles per hour), slammed into Chuuk on Sunday night and crossed the vast archipelago of 607 islands before battering the Yap group of islands on Wednesday and heading out to sea towards the Philippines.
– Hazardous seas –
At the University of Guam Telecommunication and Distance Education Operation, associate director Manny Hechanova made radio contact with some of the islands and said most fruit trees were destroyed.
“The immediate need is food, water and clothing,” he told the Pacific Daily News in Guam.
“These islands are on their own, with limited food supplies. They may have to wait for three to five days and they may not be ready to wait that long. Starvation is a real possibility.”
As Maysak churned its way across the FSM, Yap disaster coordination officer Raymond Igechep told Radio New Zealand that residents in the Ulithi and Fais islands “have seen houses blown off their platforms”.
Although the eye of the storm skirted Yap it experienced powerful winds that flung debris through the air.
“I have a feeling that we won’t get up to …160 (mph) but a tin roof (is) flying around outside,” Igechep said.
Maysak is forecast to remain a super typhoon “through to early Friday morning,” meteorologists in Guam, 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away, said in a bulletin Wednesday afternoon for FSM.
“Seas will remain hazardous for another day or so. Do not attempt inter-island travel over the next few days.”
Maysak, which comes on the heels of destructive Cyclone Pam that hit the Pacific nation of Vanuatu over two weeks ago, is expected to make landfall in the Philippines by the weekend.
“We expect it will weaken before it makes landfall,” said Esperanza Cayanan of the Philippines government weather station.
The Philippines has not fully recovered from Super Typhoon Haiyan which struck in November 2013, leaving more than 7,350 people dead or missing.