Daily Archives: 04/18/2004

Regional Roundup

Here’s some stories of interest in the last few days:

  • Mining Issue In Northern Marianas – Seems a plan is afoot to lease the island of Pagan to an Arizona mining consortium interest in extracting the ash deposits that abound on Pagan. This has raised the ire of the former residents of Pagan, many of whom wish to return to the island, but are blocked by the government of the CNMI because the island is deemed unsafe since eruptions in the 1980’s.

    Ex-Pagan residents want to be consulted in mining venture

    By Gemma Q. Casas
    Variety News Staff

    FORMER Pagan residents are opposing moves to grant an Arizona-based investor the permit to mine and extract pozzolan from the volcanic island unless they are consulted and an environmental impact study on the proposal is made.

    “Do not approve any mining activities on Pagan for Azmar or any other firm until all options have been thoroughly explored and an environmental impact study has been conducted. We urge you to be sympathetic to the needs of our people,” said the members of the United Northern Mariana Islanders Association in a letter yesterday to Marianas Public Lands Authority Chairwoman Ana Demapan-Castro.

    UNIA also criticized MPLA for holding a board meeting on Tinian to discuss Azmar’s mining request.

    Demapan-Castro and Juan Nekai were the only board members physically present during the meeting.

    Board members Manny Villagomez and Benita Manglona reportedly “joined” the meeting through teleconference.

    “The MPLA board’s decision to hold its meeting on Tinian…to discuss commercial mining interests on Pagan is outrageously irresponsible. Many of us are wondering why Tinian? Just how many former residents of Pagan and the other Northern Islands actually live on Tinian that you know of?” UNIA stated in its letter to Demapan-Castro.

    The Arizona-based firm of Azmar International wants to mine pozzolan ash on Pagan.

    Pozzolan is said to have a very strong adhesive quality ideal for creating cement.
    Azmar said it is willing to infuse at least $40 million in capital to begin the mining of 4.55 million metric tons of pozzolan a year.

    Azmar pledged to give MPLA a royalty fee of 3 percent for every metric ton extracted in addition to business gross receipt tax and ad valorem tax.
    UNIA told MPLA’s board that it would be an “injustice” if the permit is granted without their members being consulted.

    “How would you feel if you and your people were forced from your homes by a natural disaster? How would you feel if you and your people begged to return home but were told year after year that you don’t belong there anymore? How would you feel about being treated like second-class citizens by your own government officials?” UNIA members told the board.

    Members of UNIA were forced to leave Pagan when the volcano there erupted in 1981.

  • Last Dive For WWII Veteran – 86 year old veteran Tomimatsu Ishikawa dove the wreck of the oil tanker Iro in Palau. On March 30, 1944, Ishikawa was the chief engineer onboard the oiler when it was bombed by U.S. forces in Operation Desecrate One. Ishikawa survived the airstrike, though the rest of the engine room crew were slain. He is now the last living survivor and dove the wreck on the 60th anniversary of the sinking.
  • Eyewitness Account of Typhoon Sudal – I wanted to post this story up before it is gone from the Marianas Variety web site

    Eyewitness: 24-hour nightmare in Yap

    By Olivier Wortel
    For Variety

    YAP – Starting as a tropical storm off Chuuk and heading toward Guam and then abruptly cutting south and down toward Palau before moving southeast, Typhoon Sudal made an unwelcome stop over Yap, pounding the island mercilessly for nearly a day and leaving the worst devastation in its wake that this FSM state has seen in recent memory.

    With sustained winds at its peak of 140 knots per hour and gusts up to 170 knots, with maximum significant wave height estimated at 36 feet, Sudal destroyed 99 percent of Yap’s power, water and communications infrastructure.

    Hundreds of people are living in schools, shelters, community houses and other government buildings, their homes completely ripped from their foundations.

    According to an eyewitness report: “Yap got blasted. Typhoon Sudal rolled right over poor little Yap, and smashed it. Ninety-five percent of all residences destroyed. People are living in schools, shelters, community houses, and other government buildings. The vegetation is severely stressed. A 24-hour nightmare.”

    As of Sunday afternoon, April 11, only the disaster command office had a working telephone line, but efforts were being made to re-establish phone connection to at least some phone lines. Sudal’s powerful winds crushed nearly all power and phone lines.

    The same witness described some of the destruction left by Sudal: “Winds up to 155 mph. Seas at 30 feet. One of those moved the Manta Ray restaurant to its new location, almost on top of the new Waab hardware. This place is hurtin’. The people are handling it real well, for the time being. I’m sure the shock of it will hit in a day or so. Most are lucky to be alive, and know it. I’ve never seen anything like it. We stayed at the house, and rode it out in relative comfort. Scared all right, but safe. The house held up real well. We are very fortunate.”
    Reports indicate no death or serious injury as a result of the typhoon.

    Thankfully, help is on the way. Potable water seems to be what is needed most. It’s funny though, how some people can still find time to bitch and moan.