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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Mar-Vic Cagurangan in Guam

‘Perfect storm of chaos’: A week after Typhoon Mawar, most of Guam still without basic services

An overturned truck in Guam, after Typhoon Mawar passed over the island.
An overturned truck in Guam, after Typhoon Mawar passed over the island. One week on and most of the island is still without power and water Photograph: Chris Leavitt/AP

One week after typhoon Mawar ripped through the US territory of Guam, most parts of the island were still without power, water, and internet, with residents frustrated by the government’s slow response to the crisis.

By Wednesday, power had been restored to just 28% of customers, according to officials. The Guam Power Authority said it had deployed crews working on a 24-hour shift to clear lines and repair the typhoon-damaged feeders and circuits.

The island’s governor, Lou Leon Guerrero, said based on updates from utility agencies she expected 80% to 85% of power and water restoration to be completed within four to six weeks.

“We cannot say 100% because there’s going to be places that we might not be able to reach and we don’t want to raise expectations,” she said.

Gina T Reilly, a resident of Barrigada village, said she had had to organise her household chores to conserve the fuel that runs her generator.

“I switch it on and off depending on what I need to do. It’s off during most of the day expect when I cook our meals or warm up our leftovers,” she said. “We cleaned out our fridge so we don’t have to worry about rotten food.”

Miguel Bordallo, general manager of Guam Waterworks Authority, told KUAM News that he could give no assurance that water would be fully available any time soon.

A building is flooded in Hagatna, Guam
A building is flooded in Hagatna, Guam after Typhoon Mawar. Photograph: Grace Garces Bordallo/AP

“It will take time to restore the levels of our reservoirs, which were depleted during and in the aftermath of the storm,” Bordallo said.

Some residents have resorted to filling containers with rainwater while others who have had their water restored have opened their homes to friends and relatives to share their supplies.

Cargo ships have also brought in water and food supplies.

While it’s not clear how much internet service had been restored, most shops remained without internet, hindering their ability to process credit and debit cards, prompting them to resort to cash-only transactions. But with automated teller machines not working and many banks closed, customers were having difficulty completing basic chores like grocery shopping,

“The mix of issues has created the perfect storm of chaos,” vice speaker Tina Muna Barnes and Senator Joe San Austin wrote in a letter to the president of Guam Bankers Association.

Docomo Pacific, one of the three carriers that provide mobile and internet services on Guam, said a majority of its cell sites did not suffer significant damage, but its restoration efforts were being hindered by the islandwide power outage, compounded by an inability to keep its portable generators topped up amid long lines for fuel.

Compounding the problem was the heavy damage dealt to the fiber network that supports several mobile cell sites in the island’s southern villages.

“Unfortunately, this means there would be no mobile service connectivity even if we were to power these sites with a portable generator,” Docomo said in a statement.

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