On Monday, October 8th, Hurricane Iris accompanied by 145 mile per hour winds moved quickly across a 30 mile section of southern Belize. The entire coastline of Belize is 176 miles so the effects of the storm were in a relatively small area and the rest of the country was unaffected.
Along the coast and directly in Iris path, to the north was the Placencia peninsula and to the south, Monkey River town.
Yesterday, teams from the Belize Tourism Board and Naturalight Productions visited the Placencia peninsula and this is what we found:
Placencia - a 15 mile strip of land was impacted in varying degrees. On
the northern end of the peninsula where many of the larger resorts are
located, damage was less. Docks are gone, roofs have been damaged,
swimming pool decks are askew and landscaping is bedraggled, but many of the basic structures contain solidly built concrete and crews are already
hard at work cleaning up and making repairs. Individual properties are
establishing their own re-open dates with several citing that they need
only a few weeks. While for some, this will be dependent upon the
replacement of damaged utility lines, for others with their own generators and water supply, opening dates will depend upon the size and energy of
their work crews. The energy is intense and the mood upbeat.
In the villages of Seine Bight and Placencia where architecture was older and primarily wooden, business as usual will take a little longer. Buildings were blown away, knocked off stilts and even moved several yards
into neighboring properties. Trees and power lines have been knocked
down. Left standing are larger wooden and concrete buildings and even a few coconut trees. The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) along with the village councils are hard at work organizing shelter so that
people can get on with the clean up and re-building efforts. The
volunteers and relief supplies are also being coordinated. For the
majority of time since the storm, the sun has been shining and this is helping people to recover from the initial shock, in order to regain the
will and wherewithal to get back into action. There are "sign up" sheets
for priority needs and projects at the Placencia Tourism Center and the Placencia BTIA is coordinating volunteers along with NEMO.
It is amazing what the sound of heavy equipment will do. The country's
Ministry of Works is under extreme pressure as the storm continued across many Mayan villages in the Toledo district, blocking roads and cutting off supplies to the villages so heavy equipment has had to be carefully deployed. But, yesterday afternoon passing back up through Seine Bight village we could hardly believe the changes over a few hours. A front end loader and dump trucks were clearing one lot at a time, with dozens of men sorting and clearing the debris; chain saws had begun the task of cutting up downed trees and makeshift lines were full of clean laundry.
When will Seine Bight and Placencia be ready for visitors? We don't have
that answer just yet as it has only been a few days. But, here are some
These villages aren't large.
People are alive, healthy and back on the move.
People want to get back to earning a living as soon as possible.
The Belizean people are a resilient and resourceful bunch.
If you're planning a visit to Belize and even this area, please check at http://www.belizeemergency.net
on a regular basis so that we can update you on what's happening.
One thing is for sure - there is no need to cancel your visit to Belize. International airlines and all local transportation are operating on their normal schedules and the tourism industry is working to ensure that your travel arrangements go smoothly.
We ARE a peaceful, English-speaking county only two hours away from 3 major U.S. Gateways. An adventurer's paradise, with a diversity of adventure opportunities unmatched by any other country.