Jan. 2, 2003 — Whether it is a tropical island in the Caribbean or in the Pacific Ocean, Mother Nature graces the regions with some of the most beautiful landscapes and seascapes in the world. But those warm, balmy breezes can turn tropical paradise into a disaster zone when one of nature's not-so-pleasant natural phenomena, a hurricane or typhoon, strikes.
While the Virgin Islands and most of the Caribbean islands were spared this hurricane season, the Pacific U.S. territory islands of Guam and Northern Marianas were not so lucky, said a release from the local American Red Cross headquarters in St. Thomas.
On Dec. 8, 2002, a devastating typhoon destroyed nearly 3,000 homes and damaged many more on the tiny islands in the Pacific Ocean. Typhoon Pongsona left over 20,000 families seeking assistance and in need of such basic necessities as food, water and electricity. With the intensity of a Category 5 hurricane, Pongsona also severely damaged the main hospital and Air Force base on the island of Guam. (In comparison, Hurricane Marilyn that struck St. Thomas in Sept. 1995 was a Category 3.)
The massive destruction left behind by Supertyphoon Pongsona's assault has required the American Red Cross to swing into full action. Although no Red Cross volunteer from the Virgin Islands has been sent to date to provide assistance, American Red Cross disaster volunteers and staff in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands — 404 in total — are spending the holidays on the tiny Pacific Islands in order to continue relief efforts.
The Red Cross is helping thousands of devastated families affected by Pongsona with emergency disaster assistance including financial assistance, food, health care, crisis counseling, clean-up supplies and more. In addition, the Red Cross headquarters call center in Falls Church, Va., continues to receive hundreds of new requests for assistance each day. More than 100 additional Red Cross disaster relief workers are spending the holidays staffing the call center to provide long-distance relief for these U.S. citizens who live on the Pacific islands 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii.
"The Supertyphoon Pongsona is just one example of one of the many disasters that the Red Cross responds to every day throughout the world," said Yvonne Zinicola, executive director of the American Red Cross in the Virgin Islands. "Whether it is a single family disaster here in the Virgin Islands or a natural one caused by a hurricane, typhoon, or earthquake, emergencies and disasters don’t take a break for the holidays. That's why the American Red Cross is here in the Virgin Islands and around the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We're encouraging Virgin Islanders to reach out to help those in areas affected by this massive storm by making a contribution to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund."
Virgin Islanders interested in providing financial assistance to the residents of Guam and the Marianas may call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the Disaster Relief Fund may be sent to the local American Red Cross Virgin Islands headquarters, Nisky Center Suite 222, St. Thomas, V.I. 00802, or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. Internet users can make secure online credit card donations by visiting www.redcross.org.
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