#248326 - 09/03/07 11:26 PM
Felix: From Wire service reports
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras - Planes shuttled tourists from island resorts in a
desperate airlift Monday as Hurricane Felix bore down on Honduras and Belize.
But thousands of Miskito Indians were stranded along a swampy coastline
where the Category 4 storm was expected to make landfall.
Grupo Taca Airlines provided special free flights to the mainland, quickly
touching down and taking off again to scoop up more tourists. Some 1,000
people were evacuated from the Honduran island of Roatan, popular for its
pristine reefs and diving resorts. Another 1,000 were removed from low-lying
coastal areas and smaller islands.
Felix's top winds weakened slightly to 135 mph as it headed west, but
forecasters warned that it could strengthen again before landfall along the
Miskito Coast early Tuesday. From there, *it was projected to rake northern
Honduras, slam into southern Belize on Wednesday and then cut across
northern Guatemala and southern Mexico, well south of Texas.*
A storm surge of more than 18 feet above normal tides could devastate Indian
communities along the Miskito Coast, a swampy, isolated region straddling
the Honduras-Nicaragua border where thousands live in wooden shacks, get
around on canoes and subsist on fish, beans, rice, cassava and plantains.
"There's nowhere to go here," said teacher Sodeida Rodriguez, 26, who was
hunkering down in a concrete shelter.
The only path to safety is up rivers and across lakes that are too shallow
for regular boats, but many lack gasoline for long journeys. Provincial
health official Efrain Burgos said shelters were being prepared, and
medicine and sanitation kits were being brought in, but that 18,000 people
must find their own way to higher ground.
"We're asking the people who are on the coasts to find a way to safer areas,
because we don't have the capability to transport so many people," he said.
"The houses are made of wood. They're going to be completely swept away.
They're not safe."
The storm was following the same path as 1998's Hurricane Mitch, a sluggish
storm that stalled for a week over Central America, killing nearly 11,000
people. But Felix was expected to maintain a much more rapid pace.
By Monday afternoon, crashing waves reached 15 feet higher than normal on
Honduras' coast, but there was no rain yet.
"We are ready to face an eventual tragedy," said Roatan fire chief Douglas
Most tourists took the free flights out, but locals prepared to ride out the
"We know it's a tremendous hurricane that's coming," said real estate worker
*The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Felix could dump up to 12 inches of
rain in isolated areas.* In the highland capital of Tegucigalpa, more than
100 miles inland, authorities cleared vendors from markets prone to
*Across the border in Belize City, skies grew increasingly cloudy and winds
kicked up as residents boarded windows and lined up for gas. Tourists
competed for the last seats on flights to Atlanta and Miami. Police went
door-to-door forcing evacuations. Liquor sales were banned, and stores were
running out supplies.*
"I just wish they had more airplanes to take care of everyone who has to
leave," said Atlanta, Georgia, resident Mitzi Carr, 48, who cut short her
weeklong vacation on Hatchet Caye.
*Belize is still cleaning up from last month's Hurricane Dean,* which killed
28 people as plowed through the Caribbean and slammed into Mexico as a Category
5 storm. *Dean damaged crops everywhere it passed, including an estimated
$100 million in Belize alone.*
*Erol Semplis, 54, helped a friend board up his house in Belize City, before
heading to his own house to do the same. He planned to leave with his
girlfriend later Monday.*
*"A lot of people take chances with their lives," he said. *
*Authorities said police will work overtime to ensure there is no looting
and they had prepared buses in case there is a mandatory evacuation*.
Carlo Scaramello, World Food Program representative in El Salvador, said the
U.N. agency is ready to send food to any Central American country affected
Over the weekend, Felix toppled trees, flooded homes and forced tourists
indoors on the Dutch islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire, but caused
little damage. It then grew to a Category 5 storm Monday before losing a bit
of its punch.
This is only the fourth Atlantic hurricane season since 1886 with more than
one Category 5 hurricane, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration. Only 31 such storms have been recorded in the
Atlantic, including eight in the last five seasons.
If Felix regains Category 5 winds before striking land, it would be the
first time in recorded history that two such killer storms have made
landfall in the same season, hurricane specialist Jamie Rhome said in Miami.
At 8 p.m. EDT, Felix remained a fearsome hurricane, though it had a very
small wind field, with hurricane-force winds extending just 30 miles from
its center. It was centered 205 miles east of the Nicaragua-Honduras border,
moving west at 18 mph.
Off Mexico's Pacific coast, meanwhile, Tropical Storm Henriette was nearing
hurricane strength on a path to hit the resort-studded tip of the Baja
California Peninsula on Tuesday.
With maximum sustained winds near 70 mph, Henriette caused flooding and
landslides that killed six people in Acapulco.
At 8 p.m. EDT, Henriette was centered 195 miles south-southeast of the tip
of the peninsula, pushing waves up to 22 feet high as it moved northwest at
In Cabo San Lucas, civil defense chief Francisco Cota Marquez said
authorities expected to evacuate at least 8,000 families to shelters in
public buildings. Long lines formed at gas stations and grocery stores as
residents began bracing for the storm.
#248833 - 09/08/07 12:04 AM
Re: Felix: From Wire service reports
Miskito Indians Vent Anger Over Felix
By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ, Associated Press Writers
PUERTO CABEZAS, Nicaragua - Hundreds gathered Friday on a beach in a remote
jungle region of Nicaragua to mourn the victims of Hurricane Felix and
condemn the government for doing too little to search for anyone who might
Tensions are rising between residents of the autonomous region hit by the
storm and the central government are rising as villagers complain they
weren't given enough advance warning about the monster storm and are
getting little aid in its aftermath.
A government official refused to give scarce gasoline Friday to 48-year-old
Zacarias Loren, whose 19-year-old son was with a group of 18 people diving
for lobster off a distant cay when the storm hit.
"These lives are important, too," Loren said. "They might be floating
alive, but they are out there alone."
One woman, a 19-year-old whose mother had been working on a cay selling
food and supplies to lobster fishermen, cried out under the gray sky: "Why
did you have to go? Why didn't you take me with you?"
Disgruntled villagers came together on beach the region's main town, Puerto
Cabezas, which has become the hub of relief efforts and official search
missions for any survivors. Others set out on their own to try to find
missing loved ones.
The eye of the hurricane passed directly over the Honduran-Nicaraguan
coast, devastating seaside villages and island fishing hubs that were home
to the Miskito Indians, descendants of Indians, European settlers and
African slaves. The region has a long-standing mistrust of the central
government, and is reachable only by plane or canoe in good weather.
Survivors from fishing communities off the coast said Nicaraguan
authorities sailed by and sent out evacuation warnings only hours before
the eye hit. Many lobster divers were already out at sea by then, and the
waves and wind were too strong for their primitive sailboats. Hundreds of
others were trapped on tiny distant cayes swallowed whole by the violent
The death toll has ranged from 49 to more than 100, but no one has been
able to tally the missing. It is likely no one will ever know how many
lives were lost in the Category-5 storm.
Felix devastated the Miskito Indians' barrier islands _ leaving only a few
tree trunks where primitive dwellings once stood and filling the sea with
debris. It also ruined the bumpy red-dirt tracks that connected the
region's larger communities, complicating efforts to deliver supplies in
the disaster area.
The storm hit during the last two weeks of lobster season, the main source
of income for most residents. Hundreds of fishermen and lobster divers,
many of whom swim deep to the ocean floor simply by holding their breath,
were caught at sea in open boats. Many women who work small businesses on
the reefs selling food and supplies to the lobstermen were marooned.
Among them was Aurora Prada, a 39-year-old single mother of five, who said
the sea was already wild by the time they received word of the
fast-approaching hurricane. She piled into a boat with several others and
rode out the storm in a swampy, protected area of the cayes. They spent
hours bailing out seawater as bodies floated by, and were eventually
rescued by a passing boat.
"The government is partly to blame because they warned us really late," she
Frustrated by the lack of progress, many have searched the sea themselves
and buried bodies without notifying authorities. Even some bodies brought
back to the rescue effort's hub in Puerto Cabezas have been put in graves
without being identified, making future efforts at separating the missing
from the dead nearly impossible.
Miscommunication and mistrust have not helped.
On Friday, authorities said some reports from remote areas turned out to be
more rumor than fact. Honduran officials initially reported 150 Nicaraguans
had been rescued from the sea. They later adjusted the figure to 52, and
emergency chief Marcos Burgos said Friday that he was sure of only 28. He
also said a Honduran Indian leader's report of 25 bodies washing ashore
could not be confirmed.
"We know that three or four cadavers were found by Honduran fishermen who
notified families of the victims in Nicaragua, and they were supposedly
taken to be buried in their hometown, but we can't confirm that," he said.
"These indigenous people have no borders. For them, Honduras is the same as
"Afterward, they realized they made a mistake taking the bodies across a
border without permission, and now they won't talk. They won't say anything
On Thursday, about 500 people crowded a pier in Puerto Cabezas overlooking
a beach where 13 bloated bodies had been laid out on black tarps after
being pulled from the sea, their arms reaching for the sky. Some relatives
of the missing tried to rush down a small wooden stairway to reach the
bodies but were held back by police.
Food, medical help, mattresses and other aid continued to arrive from the
U.S., Venezuela and Cuban governments, as well as nonprofits throughout the
Americas. But hurricane survivors in villages reachable only by helicopter
still lacked food, water and fuel. These communities are used to fending
for themselves, but Felix wiped out their crops, wrecked their boats and
contaminated drinking water with debris and dead animals.
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