The island of Roi-Namur, which is part of U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll, was recently struck by huge waves caused by rough weather, resulting in extensive damage that could take months to repair, according to the Army.
U.S. Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll supports the U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, which serves as a Defense Department space and missile defense test range.
About 80 of the roughly 120 people who live on the island have been evacuated, an Army news story says. About 60 people remain on the island to assess how bad the damage is and restore basic services.
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The incident took place about 9 p.m. local time on Jan. 20, the garrison posted on its Facebook page. A video shared on social media shows people inside a building when the waves pounded into the island.
The first wave slams through the building’s doors, knocking them off their hinges and sweeping at least two people who were standing outside into the quickly flooding building.
Water pours into the building as if it’s a sinking ship as an unseen man says, “Oh my God!”
Then a second wave smashes into the building, bringing the surging water level dangerously close ceiling level.
“Get out of here!” the unseen man yells.
Another person off-camera can be heard saying that the water is at least 5 feet high.
The 31-second video ends shortly after the lights in the building go out.
Several areas of the island remain underwater. The top priority for recovery efforts is to clear the runway on Roi-Namur to move both people and equipment, the garrison’s commander Army Col. Andrew “Drew” Morgan said in the Army news story.
Despite the scope of the extent of the damage to Roi-Namur, only a few minor injuries have been reported, Morgan said in a Jan. 22 video posted to the installation’s Facebook page.
“This is going to go down in Kwaj’s history books as one of its most challenging times ever in its 80-year history,” Morgan said. “We will get through this, and we are settling in for a marathon of recovery ahead. It may last months or even years. But remember: We’re important to our nation’s security. This our home. We love our home. I’m proud of you, Team Kwaj. We’re showing the world that we are truly one team.”
Flooding caused by the waves has damaged much of the unaccompanied housing on Roi-Namur, and the automotive complex remains underwater, according to the Army. The island’s dining facility, Outrigger Bar and Grill, chape, and Tradewinds Theater sustained moderate to severe damage.
Efforts to repair the island’s infrastructure have been named “Operation Roi Recovery.”
In the meantime, confidential services are available to any personnel at U.S. Army Garrison Kwajalein who need to discuss issues that they are dealing with, Kenneth Thomas, the installation’s behavioral health provider, said in a recent video posted on Facebook.
“Just remember: You are not alone,” Thomas said.
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