Some of us always wondered what happened during or after Hurricane Hattie hit our island in 1961. Here is an excerpt found in the Belize Archives after the storm.
Caye Caulker’s Recovery After Hattie
Caye Caulker, 20 miles north-east of Belize, near the Barrier Reef, was swept by 15-foot waves. After the hurricane only two good houses were left out of over 100. Almost 400 people were homeless and nearly completely wiped out with 14 known dead.
There were a few more houses numbering about 8 that were also used as refugee centres during the storm but at best were continually swept by water and badly damaged.
People were in a complete daze for the next two days as their grief and sorrow made hem seemingly incapable of dealing with the situation. Meanwhile on the second day in Belize a fisherman from the Caye arrived in his small boat where he immediately spread the word among relatives of the terrible bad, bad, bad disaster there. Upon questioning the man, Mr. Ray Auxillou, an Englishman, residing in Belize, thought it necessary to make a trip out to the Caye and bring back an accurate damage report. He set out, contacting relatives of the people on the Caye and soon a small party with a 19ft. runabout and salt water drowned motor was found. A mechanic from Gordo’s worked on the motor feverishly while gasoline was hunted.
During the hurry and bustle of preparation a visit to the controlling authority was paid by Auxillou to notify them of the intention to inspect the needs of the people at the Caye and the extent of the damage. Controlling authority turned out to be the Governor who seemed pleased and offered any help.
Consequently, a small list of food was obtained from the Marketing Board to be taken out for emergency use. The food turned out to be too much for the small boat and tow other island sloops were commandeered at the wharf and the food loaded aboard. The speedboat with Ray Auxillou, Luis Alamina and Ilna Alamina went ahead to organize the reception and distribution of food.
Upon arrival the group were met by Constable Bernard Higinio who was informed by Mr. Ray Auxillou that a state of Emergency was declared on the Caye and that he would work under his authority for the time being on direct verbal orders from the Police Commissioner Bruce Taylor in Belize. A meeting of the Village Council was held at the J.P’s House (best house remaining).
The distribution and plans for rehabilitation ere discussed and after a little time it was decided to leave things in the hands of the Village Council. However, by the next morning it was apparent that the shock of disaster and great loss of everyone made things difficult. The Council were not reliable to adequately control or agree on what to do, people were looting and there was no spirit of cooperation. The Constable and Mr. Auxillou therefore called a public meeting that morning. The terrible situation in which the hurricane had left the whole country was described and the situation at the Caye was reviewed. Mr. Auxillou, speaking as the Governor’s representative, stated he found it necessary to declare “Martial Law” on the Caye, and in a long speech told the people that they could expect hardly any help from outside, but the best could be attempted, with no promises.
He explained how everyone should work together in cooperation with the Village Council who would control all operations answerable to him.
Registration groups were formed immediately to list all people on the Caye by age, name and family. A list of the destitute was made; a list of immediate requirements was also made.
The paper work took most of the ay. Another meeting was held that night and “volunteer” conscription was organized with the motto “no work, no food”.
Gangs were assigned to the emergency projects in order of priority. There were the gathering and repairing of all water vats, erection of temporary shelters and looking after aid. Five serious hospital cases were send in by boat to Belize early the next day.
Upon returning to Belize, a report was given to the Governor and a list of emergency requirements requested. These were authorized immediately and Mr. Auxillou’s authority for representing the Governor’s Emergency Hurricane Headquarters was confirmed verbally.
A tough time, even with the Governor’s written authority was experienced in getting materials, as no respect was shown to the Police guard assigned. It was eventually found necessary to use two armed soldiers; after this was done things worked out smoothly.
In two day’s time, the Caye had several houses standing and 19 temporary shelters. Now four weeks later, there are almost 50 complete houses, and work has stopped only because materials are lacking. At least 50 houses were swept completely away to sea. After ten days Mr. Auxillou passed the authority over to the Constable through the Governor, still leaving the Village Council in actual charge of operations, as the emergency crisis was deemed over and all operations were now working fairly smoothly. The situation broke down slightly a few days later for a short time but went back to normal again with the Village Council now working in complete charge.