Shelters have room to spare

SHELTERING: Benny Camacho takes shelter Tuesday, May 23, 2023, at M.U. Lujan Elementary School in Yona, ahead of Supertyphoon Mawar. David Castro/The Guam Daily Post

While many Guam residents rushed to make final storm preparations Tuesday morning, some packed up their essentials, left their homes and headed to emergency shelters, which opened at 8 a.m. in the northern, central and southern areas of the island.

Merizo Martyrs Memorial School, normally a place of education for children, is now a safe haven for southern families.

"We are here because we are close to the beach," said a Malesso' resident who brought his family of four to the shelter.

He and his wife, who asked not to be identified, explained that they live on the second floor of a two-story home in Malesso', but their home was old and this was their first typhoon experience on Guam.

"Very scared if it floods. It's concrete, but it's old and there's a leak," he said.

He and his wife were at ease sitting on the floor in their assigned space in the cafeteria of the elementary school. The wife said she "brought a friend" as she showed a framed picture of Jesus on the cross and a rosary around her neck.

"We are safe," she said.

The family came prepared with precooked meals, pillows, bedding and their phones to help pass the time.

With the National Weather Service and the Joint Information Center warning not to wait for weather conditions to worsen, Guam Department of Education spokesperson Michelle Franquez reported that people were lined up at some shelters before they opened, however, numbers were still low.

According to the JIC, the 12 emergency shelters that are open as of Tuesday are:


• Astumbo Elementary School, maximum occupancy 287

• Maria A. Ulloa Elementary School, maximum occupancy 349

• Machananao Elementary School, maximum occupancy 334

• Upi Elementary School, maximum occupancy 506

• Wettengel Elementary School, maximum occupancy 378


• B.P. Carbullido Elementary School, maximum occupancy 242 

• George Washington High School, maximum occupancy 250


• Talo'fo'fo' Elementary School, maximum occupancy 311

• Merizo Martyrs Memorial School, maximum occupancy 307

• Harry S. Truman Elementary School, maximum occupancy 422

• Inalåhan Middle School, maximum occupancy 352

• M.U. Lujan Elementary School, maximum occupancy 400

The numbers

Franquez reported that as of 12 p.m., villages in the north saw higher numbers of those seeking shelter compared to central and southern villages.

But later in the evening those numbers had nearly doubled. 

Astumbo was at 67% capacity with 192 shelterees, Maria A. Ulloa's 95 shelterees reflected 27% of its capacity, and Machananao had 217 registered shelterees, which constituted 65% capacity. Upi reported it was at 13% capacity with 64 individuals. Wettengel was at 8% capacity with 30 shelterees. 

In the central shelters, Carbillido reported being at 13% capacity with 31 shelterees, while GWHS was at 11% capacity with 50.

In the south, Harry S. Truman had 12 individuals representing 3% of its capacity. M.U. Lujan had 13 shelterees, also 3% of the school's capacity. Talo'fo'fo' Elementary was at 12% capacity with 38 shelterees, Inalåhan Middle was at 8% capacity with 29 shelterees, and Merizo Martyrs Memorial School reported 20% of its capacity with 60 individuals. 



Surge expected

At the onset of Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero's order to evacuate low-lying areas on coastal fronts in the south – namely Ipan, Talo'fo'fo', Inalåhan, Malesso', Hågat and Humåtak – a surge of shelter seekers was expected.

"Mawar may bring considerable damage to light material buildings. Wooden power poles that are rotten or damaged could be broken, and other wooden poles could be tilted. Some secondary power lines could be downed. Damage to wooden and tin roofs (is) likely. Major damage to shrubbery and trees could occur with some defoliation," NWS stated in a release.

"If your home is vulnerable to high winds, or you live in a surge zone or any location prone to flooding, evacuate to a designated shelter or ride out the storm in the sturdy home of family or friends outside of evacuation zones," the weather service reported throughout Tuesday.

Malesso' shelter manager Elis Taisapic told the Post that people did start coming in slowly when they opened at 8 a.m.

"They started to register and then went back, grabbed some of their belongings and came back an hour to two hours later. Currently, as of 12 (p.m.), we are at nine individuals, or two families – six adults and three children," he said.

"I anticipate our numbers to rise. Currently we can accommodate 307 for (the) max, 100 comfortably. ... But we will make sure that we can house all that come."

People seeking shelter were asked to bring seven days worth of food, water, toiletries, medications, valid identification, and important documents for their families. Shelter rules include not cooking, smoking or consuming alcoholic beverages.


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