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Cemetery in Umatac is sinking

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - For more than a decade, the village of Umatac has watched an erosion problem grow significantly worse and now things are at a critical stage. As such, the cemetery in Guam's southernmost municipality is sinking.

Umatac resident Julia Quinata has lived in the village her entire life, but never has she seen the erosion get this bad. She says the cemetery is slowly sinking in, telling KUAM News, "I wish things can be done as soon as possible because even our deceased family here are actually falling down onto the erosion part. I wish someone can help us as soon as possible."

While the village has been experiencing erosion for the past decade, Quinata says it seems as if nothing is being done to fix the situation.  "I just hope something can be done as soon as possible not just because of our deceased but the land is just getting worse," she added.

The cemetery once stood on a hill that wasn't easily accessible, but over the years, the land has changed dramatically.  "In the past ten years," Quinata added, "we had a hard time getting to our family members or burials and now it's like flat land. It's very easy to get to them because the water erosion is just bad. The flood is so bad."

And village mayor Dean Sanchez added, "My grandmother was one of those that is slowly at the bottom of the erosion pool. And many of the other residents and their deceased are exposed to this."  Mayor Sanchez says he's made constant contact with the Army Corps of Engineers for the last decade. It was just recently when he found out the problems were negated to the Hawaii office.

"The person who was in charge back then had retired just last year but we found out through the grapevine, this is through the Hawaii office that the person responsible here never addressed the problem back then," he said.

While the community is up in arms about this issue and a request for an emergency declaration was never acted upon last year, Sanchez says someone needs to step in to help before the entire cemetery falls to the bottom.  "I don't know what it'll take. Maybe it'll take someone's life for it to be more serious connotations. Do we need a life to be lost so we can address the problem? Does the community have to be a health hazard because of the exposed graves? I don't know what it takes," he noted.

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