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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 2:37 p.m., Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Emotional reality dawns on Guam after Pongsona

These Dededo, Guam, homes were torn apart when Typhoon Pongsona passed over the island Sunday with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. The island has been declared a federal disaster area and help is on the way from Hawai'i.

Ron Soliman • Pacific Daily News

 •  How to help
Send checks made out to the American Red Cross to the Hawai‘i state chapter, 4155 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, HI 96816. Money will go into the National Disaster Relief Fund, but you also can designate that your contribution go to Guam typhoon relief.
 •  More stories, photos from Pacific Daily News

By Scott Radway
(Guam) Pacific Daily News

DEDEDO, Guam – Standing in the pile of broken tin and wood that is now her home, Pamela Sahagun impishly held up an unwrapped, soggy Christmas present: a large flashlight for her husband. "We opened them," said Sahagun, shrugging her shoulders

There was nothing else to do, she said. Christmas was almost an impossible thought when staring at what was once her home, destroyed by Supertyphoon Pongsona. So she let her son open his toys, which he then stowed in the tent where they now live

All over Guam, people are suffering in the wake of Sunday's destructive Supertyphoon Pongsona, which hit the island with sustained winds at 150 mph. No one has power. Water pressure is low

Typhoon Pongsona's 180-mph winds snapped concrete power poles, leaving them littered on a road in Barrigada. Motorists weaved around downed utility poles and power lines around the island.

Masako Watanabe • Pacific Daily News

Police patrolled the littered streets as best they could, watching for looters and especially generator thieves. The patrol cars themselves showed signs of Pongsona's impact.

"You will see quite a few patrol cars running around with dents, pieces of bumper missing, mirrors missing," said Guam Police Department spokesman Officer A.J. Balajadia.

Residents said they were not prepared for such a powerful storm, let alone one that would hit the island directly. Meteorologists were predicting the storm would bypass Guam and maybe hit Saipan.

"It was crazy. No one was expecting this. The neighbor's house was lifted like a piece of paper and just left," said resident Norma Decibel. "It will take six months to a year to try and get everything rebuilt, especially with everyone working."

People had already begun to remove the wreckage that was their homes, salvaging what little was left and trying to pull their lives together. Decibel's family had built nine houses on a flat parcel. Eight of those houses were leveled by Pongsona. Waterlogged possessions, down to teddy bears, were mingled with sheets of tin and broken wood planks.

Power lines lean precariously over a Guam roadway in the wake of Pongsona.

Pacific Daily News

Eleanor San Nicolas, who lived in one of the nine houses, thought she was finished rebuilding. Chata'an damaged her house, but with federal money and plenty of sweat, she and her family — her husband and six children built an even nicer house.

"It was very nice. So nice," said San Nicolas, a stout, outspoken woman. Then she began to cry. "This was my kids' Christmas present. We put the last tin up before the typhoon."

Philip Flores, BankPacific president and chief executive officer, estimated that the damage left by Pongsona could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. But even amid horrible damage, he saw a bright side. The destruction will lead to rebuilding in the government and private sectors, thus spurring hiring of construction workers, he said.

A boy looks over upturned cars that the typhoon piled on each other.

Pacific Daily News

"This is probably going to be the biggest construction injection into the economy since the early 1990s," he said, making a comparison to the boom in hotel construction projects more than a decade ago. "So all we have to do is take a deep breath, hold hands and we'll get through it."

Contributing to this report were (Guam) Pacific Daily News reporters Mark-Alexander Pieper, Dionesis Tamondong, Theresa Merto, Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno)

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Dededo.