As dawn broke this morning, thousands of Belizeans, many of whom barely slept—woke up to reports of which places suffered and which were spared. Radio coverage—the nation’s lifeline in times of emergency—indicated that various communities in the north had been hit hard, but the accounts were largely anecdotal. To get a better feeling for the big picture we chartered a helicopter and for two hours News Five’s Stewart Krohn and Rick Romero had a bird’s eye view of Dean’s aftermath.
Stewart Krohn, Reporting
As we fly north from Belize City there’s little indication that any thing is unusual. By the time we reach the Mennonite settlement of Little Belize in the Corozal District however, the economic cost of Hurricane Dean is apparent. Field after field of papaya trees are totally destroyed, the plants—many loaded with ripe fruit—laid down as if a team of machete men went through on a rampage.
The papaya industry exported thirty-one million dollars worth of fruit in 2006 and was on its way to a record year in 2007. Unofficial estimates put crop damage at ninety percent and full scale exports will not resume for at least seven months, putting the livelihood of several thousand workers in limbo.
At the same time, domestic crops were also destroyed. Cornfields were flattened at several farms but we were unable to confirm how Dean’s winds may impact the sugar industry or if there will be any impact on rice production in the Blue Creek area.
As we approach Corozal Town itself, it’s apparent that while damage was not catastrophic, many homes had lost roofing and some, their entire roofs. Fortunately many of the town’s structures—built in the wake of devastating Hurricane Janet in 1955—are constructed of concrete and seem to have fared very well.
Other coastal communities in the Corozal District, like the village of Sarteneja, appear to have escaped with relatively minor damage, the most visible evidence of the hurricane being the transformation of Corozal Bay from brilliant blue to milky white.
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the last twenty-four hours was the relatively low impact of Dean on San Pedro, Ambergis Caye. Coming down from the north, most beachfront hotels and homes were unscathed ... and while a number of wooden piers were either destroyed or heavily damaged, most of the recently constructed docks held up fine, their designers having learned well the lessons of Mitch and Keith.
That pattern held true the entire length of Ambergis Caye as well as Caye Caulker: some docks damaged, trees knocked down and erosion on the beach ... but when we add it all up, the tab could have been higher, much higher. Stewart Krohn for News Five.
We would like to thank pilot Gustavo Giron Senior of Astrum Helicopters for the smooth ride.