The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Myrtle Hazard delivered emergency supplies Saturday to the small island nation of Palau in the western Pacific, in response to a national emergency declared by President Surangel Whipps Jr. after Typhoon Surigae devastated the region last week.

The bulk of the supplies, which included water and food, went to the people on the island of Kayangel.

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“Today, our crew had a unique opportunity to conduct one of the most satisfying missions the United States Coast Guard is known for, humanitarian aid,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Johnson said in a Monday bulletin from the Coast Guard. Johnson is a coxswain on the Myrtle Hazard. 

“We were extremely excited to be able to offer help, which for a small island such as Kayangel makes a major impact. I am proud I was able to be a part of it,” Johnson added.

The slow-moving typhoon made landfall in Palau on April 18, producing extensive flooding and wind damage in Kayangel, as well as on the island of Koror. No deaths were reported as a direct result of the storm, but water, electricity and cellular services were knocked out. This is according to Bernadette Carreon of The Guardian, who has made Palau her adopted home country.

Palau consists of about 340 coral and volcanic islands perched on the Kyushu-Palau Ridge. The Palau archipelago lies in the southwest corner of Micronesia, with Guam 830 miles to the northeast, New Guinea 400 miles to the south and the Philippines 550 miles to the west.

Typhoon Surigae damage in the Koror state in Palau, April 2021. (Photo: Kinziro Kloulubak/Office of the governor, Koror state)

It’s not clear how strong Surigae’s winds were when it slammed Palau. But on April 17, just prior to weakening, the storm reached its peak intensity. It generated 10-minute sustained winds of 140 mph, one-minute sustained winds of 190 mph and a minimum pressure of 895 millibars. This made it the strongest pre-May typhoon on record worldwide.

Direct hits in Palau don’t happen often. The last typhoons recorded there before Surigae were Bopha and Haiyan in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

On April 18, the president of Palau declared a national emergency and made an official request to the United States embassy for assistance. Capt. Christopher Chase with Coast Guard Sector Guam and Ambassador John Hennessey-Niland, U.S. Embassy Koror, spoke by phone and determined what supplies were needed, in addition to the best method for delivering them.

At the time the Myrtle Hazard’s crew was conducting a patrol for illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries patrol north of Guam and was recalled back to homeport for the humanitarian mission.

On Guam, supplies were being donated and collected by a number of organizations, including the Chief Petty Officers Association Marianas Chapter, the U.S. Naval Base Chapel, the Orotte Commissary, the Ngaraad Club of Guam, the Kayangel Club of Guam and the Guam Paluan community. The cutter then departed Guam for the 800-nautical-mile transit to Palau with the supplies.

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Upon arriving in Palau, the crew worked closely with the government and the U.S. embassy to coordinate a safe, contactless transfer of the supplies to Kayangel.

“It’s a rewarding mission to deliver aid whenever required,” said Lt. Tony Seleznick, the Myrtle Hazard’s commanding officer. “This operation exemplified the great partnership between the U.S. and the Republic of Palau. The crew of Myrtle Hazard performed excellently and highlighted why the U.S. Coast Guard is the world’s best Coast Guard.”

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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