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Overcoming the odds: The Story of Two Families and Their Survival After Super Typhoon Yutu

Overcoming the odds: The Story of Two Families and Their Survival After Super Typhoon Yutu

Story by PO2 Kelsey Hockenberger on 01/17/2019

Dark clouds formed over the island of Tinian and rain began to fall, indicating the storm to come. Palm trees rocked as the wind caught their leaves and uprooted them from where they grew. Super Typhoon Yutu was just beginning for the island of Tinian.

Noel Salas, a native of Tinian, was informed to grab his wife and flee to the storm shelter where they would wait out the storm.
“The walls began to sway back and forth,” said Salas as he angled his hands, showing the movement of the walls.

As the winds picked up to speeds of 180 mph, the door to the shelter flew open with a big bang and rain began to flood in.
“I ran to the door and fought with all my strength to close it, and I had to yell for someone else to help lock it again,” said Salas.

Salas knew this storm was nothing like he had ever encountered.

For hours Salas endured the storm with his wife and more than 70 fellow community members.
“I worried about our home, and what would be left of it,” said Salas.

The next morning Salas and his wife returned to their home. Walls were destroyed, belongings thrown about and tin, for their roof, laid in the brush down the road, ripped to pieces.
“My wife and I began to cry when we saw our home,” said Salas as his eyes began to water. “I told her, hopefully we can recover from this one.'”

Salas struggled for the next few months to rebuild a place to call home.

“Day, after day, I get off work at 4:30 p.m. and work on rebuilding my home all by myself until the sun goes down,” said Salas. “I worked through every holiday and weekend. It is very hard, but I don’t want to stop rebuilding.”

Less than 20 feet away from Salas and his home was the home of Arnel Medicielo and his family of five.

“There was debris all over the place and no roof,” said Medicielo. “My daughters room was completely gone.”

Medicielo had a wife and four children, the oldest being 12 years-of-age, to provide a roof over their heads.

“I needed to install a tarp over the roof to keep the rain from coming in,” said Medicielo.

The only shelter for them to call home for months to come was a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided shelter, assembled by military members.
“The tent provides us a place sleep at night,” said Medicielo. “It’s also a place where we run to for shelter from the rain.”

Medicielo struggled to keep his family happy without a roof over their home.

“The children kept on complaining when we could get a good house, but we could not go,” said Medicielo. “We had to stay here.”

Tarp would be the only barrier over the Medicielos heads, as they could not afford the cost or manpower for a new roof.

“It would cost me $6,000 to make my own roof,” explained Medicielo. “I would not be able to afford the costs or time to do it.”

After months of temporary shelters, it was time for the Salas and Medicielo families to finally get roofs on their homes, courtesy of the United States Navy, in conjunction with FEMA.
Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 worked for over nine hours to create an emergency temporary roof for their homes.

With an emergency temporary roof, Salas will have one less project to complete for the reconstruction of his home.

“I will be able to continue to install walls and a ceiling, and having this roof will allow me to do that,” said Salas with a smile. “I am so very happy.”

Medicielo will also be able to care for his family’s needs with the new roof.

“I will be able to put in electricity and a ceiling,” said Medicielo. “It will be easier for me and my family. I am very, very happy because now I can sleep in my home.”

With over a hundred emergency temporary roofs constructed by Sailors assigned to 30th Naval Construction Regiment and Marines assigned to 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, there is a little return to normalcy for the residents of this remote island community.

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