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#246922 - 08/22/07 06:30 AM Life After Dean in San Pedro
Marty Offline
channel 7

The San Pedro Town Council estimates that as many 9 thousand people fled the island beginning as early as Friday. And they did so with good reason. While Hurricane Dean wasn’t expected to make a direct hit on San Pedro, tropical storm force winds were forecasted to bear down and they did last night. So while it wasn’t as bad as Hurricane Keith it was still very bad. A 7NEWS team was on the first commercial flight out to the island this morning and Keith Swift has the story.

Keith Swift Reporting,
This is amateur video footage of Hurricane Dean’s tropical storm force winds beating down on San Pedro early this morning. The footage was taken by Pamela Zetina who watched Dean’s force unfold from her porch near the center of the island. Steve Vaughn also spent last night on the island.

Steve Vaughn, San Pedro Resident
“Big waves were coming in and a lot of debris was flying around. Nobody was on the street though, absolutely nobody. The transformer just exploded and stuff like that.”

This is San Pedro after being bartered by Hurricane Dean for most of last night. A few billboards are down and tree limbs are everywhere but Mayor Elsa Paz and Belize Rural South Area Rep. Manuel Heredia say San Pedro is still standing.

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., Area Rep.
“What I believe that eventhough we felt a lot of breeze and rain and sea, I think that we were very fortunate that we didn’t get any damage that we expected that that type of weather would cause.”

Elsa Paz, Mayor
“I think San Pedro was okay. We didn’t have any kind of big damages, none of the houses were down and you can notice, if you have been around, there were loose zincs from the roofs. So we are okay. It is more like a cleanup campaign that we have to have and I believe that by the end of this weekend, we will have San Pedro clean again.”

That cleanup campaign started this afternoon as residents – many of them on their own initiative – began raking up leaves and other debris from the streets. And while this afternoon business houses also began taking down their shutters, San Pedro is far from back to normal. It is about 2 pm here and the entire island still doesn’t have back electricity.

And while electricity is the concern in the center of town, the hardest hit area was here on the southern end. It is known as San Pedrito. There are no cobblestone streets here. This area has swamps and after last night’s hurricane, it became a virtual lake. But more than dumping water, the storm’s violent winds caused the Faith Bible Church, which was under construction, to collapse. Jose Lewis Quintanilla and Edison Whittey both live in San Pedrito and they chose to ride out the storm on the upper flat of this two storey concrete building.

Edison Whittey, San Pedrito Resident
“It started to rain and then water just started to raise and then we got a lot of breeze, enough breeze and you saw things flying around the place.”

Jose Lewis Quintanilla, San Pedrito Resident
“The height of the water was like two feet. After 2 am we really got frightened but we were up there and we knew we were really safe.”

Keith Swift,
Why did you decide to stay back here?

Jose Lewis Quintanilla,
“Well I mean we have our houses there, my friend owns a shop, and we decided to stay and take care of his business because a lot of crooks were going to come and try and thief stuff so we decided to stay here.”

Keith Swift,
You’re weren’t concerned about your safety?

Jose Lewis Quintanilla,
“No, I mean right here we could take like an earthquake. I’ve always wanted to experience a hurricane but it didn’t hit us the way it should have. We have little home back here and thank God nothing happened.”

And while Whiittey and Quintanilla stayed on the island – as many as 9,000 people evacuated because of the approaching storm. Some of those residents began returning today but Mayor Elsa Paz says those residents shouldn’t be in a rush to return home.

Elsa Paz,
“I would believe that they should try to come back by the weekend because we want to make sure that San Pedro is clean and right now we have electricity, we have water, we have to clean the island and they can start coming by the weekend.”

Mayor Elsa Paz told us that the north of San Pedro received considerable damage from Hurricane Dean. Tropic Air and Maya Island Air resumed flying after midday. Regular service for water taxis will resume tomorrow morning.

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#246928 - 08/22/07 06:34 AM Re: Life After Dean in San Pedro [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
channel 5

San Pedranos clean up, but damage less than feared
San Pedro, Ambergis Caye: it’s the powerhouse of Belize’s vital tourism industry. And when it looked like the island would take a licking there were fears that the entire Belizean economy would feel the blow. Fortunately, Dean’s punch landed hardest in Mexico, but as News Five’s Marion Ali reports, San Pedranos were not completely spared.

Marion Ali
“This area, San Mateo, home to eight-five residents, was one of the areas worst hit aside from San Pedrito. The clean-up campaign, according to town Mayor, Elsa Paz, will take a while before residents will see life back to normal.”

Elsa Paz, San Pedro Mayor
“This is a low area and actually at the moment we don’t have streets, big streets, we only have like trails that take these people to their houses and since it’s a low area you can see, at the moment, it’s flooded with water. But we can help by bringing hard core and sand to the areas where especially the people have to walk noh, like as you can see the streets. But that’s the most we can do for them at the moment and I think it will take us like all of this week til’ the end of this weekend here to clean the whole town.”

San Mateo area resident, Edilberto Ku, said he decided to weather the storm in his house next to the lagoon because he thought it was safe. While he didn’t suffer the loss of any personal property, he came close to losing a friend.

Edilberto Ku, San Mateo area resident
“Maybe one to two o’ clock in the morning the breeze come so hard and rain, I come out and check around because I got mi dog right yah and di water give me up to bout right yah.”

Marion Ali
“By your waist?”

Edilberto Ku
“Aha. Then well, I come this side and to the next point and the fence, I find my dog to the top and I take it and bring it and kerr it up there.”

Marion Ali
“Why you decided to weather the storm here when you knew this was an area that floods a lot?

Edilberto Ku
“Somebody come and tek us right yah but we don’t want to come out because we got our new houses and we think that nothing will happen.”

Another man who thought nothing would happen was Amilcar Hernandez, who also weathered the storm close to the lagoon, but in the San Pedrito area.

Amilcar Hernandez
“The storm come strong and lotta breeze and all ah dat just broke in over there and I just spend it in the high house over there. You live right by the lagoon. Yes ma’am. How is it normally when it rains here. It rain hard and all ah the lagoon place full up bout like one feet and water is all about and strong breeze, lot of things and zinc over there just fly out.”

Today the National Emergency Management Organization dispatched assessment teams to the island who teamed up with local officials. Belize Rural South Area Representative, Manuel Heredia, says while the damages to the island were not as severe as those caused by Hurricane Keith in 2000, the clean-up will still take some work.

Manuel Heredia, Belize Rural South Area Representative
“Most of the damages were done to more or less the trees and the streets and the beach erosion I would say would be the greatest part. A number of the piers were damaged, I think, or most of them were slightly damaged but beach erosion and the streets were the biggest part of the damage.”

Marion Ali
“When you say street you mean what, flooding?”

Manuel Heredia
"Not only, pot holes and also some areas that will need a lot of materials to get them back to what they were noh.”

Heredia estimates that the facelift to restore the island will take around a month. Marion Ali for News Five.


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