Waves pummel Marshall Islands Army base, ‘marathon of recovery’ ahead

by Tommy Grant

A tremendous weather-driven wave smashed into a restaurant aboard an Army base in the Marshall Islands last Saturday, sending people flying through doors as water surged into the building, according to a video shared on social media by one of the restaurant’s patrons.

The video of devastation at Outrigger Bar, located on Roi-Namur, an island in the northern part of the Marshall Islands’ Kwajalein Atoll, shows the surge of water rush into the building as people attempt to avoid getting swept away.

The incident in the Pacific comes amid significant flooding over the weekend on Roi-Namur, U.S. Army Garrison – Kwajalein Atoll said on Facebook, which noted the restaurant was among the facilities impacted. Water inundation washed over the northwest side of the island, flooding at least one-third of it.

“This is going to go down in KWAJ’s history books as one of its most challenging times ever,” Col. Drew Morgan, the installation’s commander, said in a Jan. 21 Facebook post. “We will get through this, and we are settling in for a marathon of recovery ahead. It may last months or even years.”

A few individuals experienced minor injuries, Morgan said, adding that around 50 people remained on Roi-Namur to assess damages and restore utilities.

A group of 80 individuals who call Roi-Namur home were safely evacuated to the nearby island of Kwajalein via a catamaran and dive boat following the night of devastating waves that ravaged the bulk of the island.

The two islands of Kwajalein and Roi-Namur are home to approximately 1,300 Americans, a total that comprises U.S. service members, Department of Defense civilians and contractors, according to the Pacific installation’s website. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll supports the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site.

The Army garrison was quick to offer behavioral health support to those impacted by the events from the weekend.

“Clearing the runway on Roi-Namur and assessing its safety is our top priority now that we have evacuated personnel not required for the initial response efforts,” Morgan said in a release about the ongoing efforts, named Operation Roi Recovery. “Once the runway is open, we can move people and equipment back and forth to start the recovery process.”

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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