Emergency declared in typhoon-hit Northern Mariana islands; storm heads for Philippines

Supplies being loaded onto a ship at Apra Harbor in Guam before it sets sail to Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, to help those affected by Super Typhoon Yutu, on Oct 27, 2018. PHOTO: AFP/US COAST GUARD

SAIPAN, NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS (AFP) - US military aircraft laden with emergency supplies were flying in to the Northern Mariana Islands on Saturday (Oct 27) in the wake of destructive Super Typhoon Yutu which destroyed buildings and cut electricity supplies.

Ralph Torres, the governor of the US Pacific territory, said President Donald Trump had approved a request for a "major disaster declaration" after the storm, with winds of up to 290kmh, left one person dead and caused widespread damage.

More than 130 people required hospital treatment, mainly for cuts caused by flying debris.

Hundreds of tourists were also stranded with the international airport on the main island of Saipan closed to commercial flights to free up space for military aircraft.

Electricity was out across Saipan, which is home to most of the territory's 55,000 residents, as well as nearby Tinian.

Tinian mayor Joey San Nicolas said the aid was urgently needed and the authorities still did not know the full extent of the damage, two days after Yutu swept through.

"Many homes have been destroyed, our physical infrastructure has been compromised, we have no power or water," he said.

"Our ports are currently inaccessible, and several other points in other parts of the island are also inaccessible." There have been reports of looting and stores which were able to open quickly ran out of water and food items.

"Right now, water, clothing, personal hygiene and easy to cook food items like canned goods and instant noodles are needed," Saipan resident Jonathan Perez told Agence France-Presse.

Torres' office said on its Facebook page that the one known fatality was a 44-year-old woman who died while taking shelter in an abandoned building that collapsed.

Yutu has since restrengthened to a maximum Category 5 storm and is currently on track to hit the northern part of Luzon island in the Philippines, according to the US Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre.

Separately, Xinhua news agency reported that about 1,500 Chinese tourists were trapped in Saipan.

The Consulate General of China in Los Angeles said on Friday (Oct 26) it had set up a 24-hour hotline and received nearly 80 calls from Chinese tourists in need of assistance.

The majority of the trapped Chinese flew to Saipan via domestic charter flights. No casualties have been reported, said the consulate general, adding accommodation for Chinese tourists and food have been guaranteed.

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