Red Cross restoring Rota

LIHUE — On Friday, the eye of Typhoon Dolphin blasted through the 40-mile channel that splits the islands of Rota and Guam. Kauai’s Padraic Gallagher arrived in the storm-torn U.S. territories three days later.

“The mission, plain and simple, is to just get people back on their feet,” the American Red Cross Kauai County director told The Garden Island by phone from Rota Tuesday.

Gallagher, along with another Red Cross volunteer from Oahu, will spend two weeks on Rota distributing emergency supplies and meeting with families whose homes where tattered and torn by 85 mph winds.

“I guess you could say Rota is lucky,” Gallagher said. “It wasn’t quite a direct hit, but it was real close. There is a lot of damage here right now.”

Fresh off the airplane Monday, Gallagher toured some of the island’s damage. Three homes were completely destroyed, and he said he was told that another six or so homes are in similar condition. Others are still standing, but without roofs.

“It’s very strange,” he said. “There are some houses that are damaged and then right next to it there is another house, same construction, that doesn’t have damage at all.”

Not all the damage has been assessed. Gallagher said he was told during a briefing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency that a quarter of the island has not yet been surveyed in the aftermath of the storm.

It’s not all bad. Electricity is restored, most roadways have reopened and most people are without injuries, Gallagher said.

“We had one medical case,” Gallagher said. “A tree fell on her house and she had to be taken to the hospital.”

Gallagher knows of no other injuries.

With a population of just 2,000, Rota is the southernmost rock in the Northern Mariana island chain.

Gallagher said life there is very different from life on Kauai.

“It’s subsistence farming and subsistence living,” he said. “There aren’t many people, but it’s like a big community here. It’s like a big family. The good thing is everyone is helping everyone, everyone is helping their neighbor.”

When one person is hurt, he said, everyone feels it.

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