Belize Commences Reconstruction Efforts after Hurricane Iris

---Belize City, Tuesday, October 9th, 2001 --- The Prime Minister of Belize in an address to the nation, officially declared Belize in the "All Clear" State after the passing of Hurricane Iris, which moved over the southern region of the country last night.

Initial reports indicate that while Belize City and points to the north were virtually spared storm damage, places along Belize's southern coast where Hurricane Iris made landfall last night appear not to have fared as well and there are reports of lives lost.

According to Tom Conlin, Executive Vice President of Peter Hughes Travel Agency, the company that owns and operates Wave Dancer cruises, the boat was secured in Big Creek, a southern deep water port, where he says many ships go to ride out these storms. "Early reports are very sketchy, but apparently a wave surge snapped the lines and the boat capsized, sending all 28 people aboard, including crew and a group from a dive club in Richmond, VA, into the water. As of this morning we have reports of eight survivors, nine bodies and 11 are still unaccounted for, "Conlin states.

Recovery and rebuilding efforts are currently underway. The Government of Belize has emergency teams in the south assisting with these recovery efforts and assessing possible damage throughout the region.

It is Business as usual for other areas of the country, including the areas of Belize City, San Pedro, Caye Caulker and San Ignacio Town. The Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport is open for business, the International Airlines are resuming their flights as scheduled and the domestic airlines are operating. Bus and Water Tax services have resumed their schedules.

Tourism Minister, Mark Espat is conducting a preliminary assessment of the affected areas, together with the Ministry of National Security in an aerial and ground inspection. The Belize Tourism Board is lending its full support to the people affected in the southern region of the country and has dispatched teams, including Tourism Police Units to the areas most affected which include Placencia, Monkey River and surrounding villages. The teams will also be conducting a preliminary assessment of the damages to the industry and identifying immediate needs requiring instant attention.

"Our hearts go out to the families of those lost in the Wave Dancer tragedy," says Director of Tourism, Tracy Taegar. "We are working closely with local authorities in the search and recovery effort and will continue to assess the damage from this storm and keep travelers advised."

The Belize Tourism Board continues to work with the private sector, its counterparts in the United States who sell vacation packages to Belize, the travel agents, the airlines and the media to assist in the recovery efforts and to answer questions that may affect their clients' immediate travel plans and to accurately advise them of the current status in the affected areas. The Belize Tourism Board's toll free number, 1-800-624-0686 is operational and standing by to render information to travelers to Belize. Further updates on the affected areas will be provided as they become available.