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FEMA reaching out to Typhoon Yutu survivors

STARTING this week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is reaching out to Typhoon Yutu survivors whose primary residences have sustained damage of more than 50 percent — these households may be eligible for Permanent Housing Construction or PHC.

“We still do not know who will build the homes, or when construction will start,� said Victor Inge, external affairs officer for FEMA. “It has to be bid. We’re doing a lot of the leg work in terms of identifying those who may be eligible.�

Victor Inge

FEMA is also participating in meetings with the Northern Marianas Housing Corporation and other local stakeholders to address the obstacles to the rebuilding process. But according to Inge, FEMA’s major focus over the past few months has been to tackle debris removal and to “get a roof over people’s heads� through the Temporary Emergency Tent and Roofing Installation Support or TETRIS program.

As far as the rebuilding process, major details still need to be ironed out; for example, FEMA and the CNMI need to be on the same page as far as the building codes to which they will build.

“We’re authorized to build up to the 2018 International Building Code,� said Tracy Aupperlee, individual assistance program specialist for FEMA, “but right now the 2009 IBC is code. So the intent is the 2018 IBC be adopted but that will take several months…we can’t implement a code that’s stronger than what currently is enforced so those kinds of things are what we’re sorting through.�

Aupperlee says FEMA is also considering what types of structures are appropriate for the CNMI’s natural environment.

“Those decisions will be made jointly by the Commonwealth and FEMA of course,� she said. “But there is no expectation that any of this will be completed even within six months.�

“What we offer in the meantime is dollars and grants. Home repair assistance is already being provided.�

And NMHC is seeking ways to make that assistance available to as many people as possible.

“What we’re trying to address is how we can get more money to assist people who lost their homes through our grantors,� explained Jacob Muna, planner and environmental officer for NMHC. “Right now all our grants are restricted, so we’re working with our grantors and other federal partners to see what we can do to lessen these restrictions so we can help everybody, make more people eligible.�

David Gervino, external affairs officer for FEMA’s Incident Management Assistance Teams, said that for all the challenges that FEMA and the CNMI are facing together, he’s enjoyed working alongside Mariana Islanders.

“We appreciate and admire their resiliency,� he told Variety. “A disaster is difficult to go through in any environment but particularly when you’re on an island, where it’s more difficult to get people and supplies.�

“But people are building back stronger and they are banding together…there’s a lot of hope here, a lot of people coming together, a lot of people who are forming partnerships and cooperating during this recovery process and it’s an honor to be a part of it.�

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/109891-fema-reaching-out-to-typhoon-yutu-survivors

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