<IMG SRC=http://www.channel5belize.com/news/graphics/4-10-2000-7.jpg ALIGN=right BORDER=0 VSPACE=5 HSPACE=5 HEIGHT=120 WIDTH=160>FROM CHANNEL 5
On yesterday's newscast Jose Sanchez reported on the damage sustained by residents of Caye Caulker. Today cameraman Brent Toombs and I journeyed to San Pedro to see how people there were faring in their efforts to rebuild the storm shattered island.
At this time it is difficult to say just how many people on San Pedro, Ambergris Caye have been left homeless and how many buildings have been destroyed. What is certain, however, is that the hardest hit areas are the low-lying neighborhoods on the lagoon.
Alberto Nunez, Mayor, San Pedro Town
"San Pedrito, San Juan and the low lying areas, even San Pablo, but because San Pablo, homes are built better, they don't have that much damage, but the water did rise in San Pablo about 6 feet."
"What are you doing for the people who live in those areas. They are out of water, they are out of food, they are out of clothing, what is being done right now."
"Well we are giving water and food rations here at the clinic. But we are sending the water truck there with some water that we are going to fill from the tanks and have them sent to San Pedrito to deliver buckets of water to the people. The people can go there and will be able to go out and fill their buckets."
"One of the areas hardest hit is San Pedrito. It is estimated that 70% of the houses in this community alone have been totally destroyed."
The residents who lost their homes have been salvaging whatever pieces of lumber they can find to build a place where they can temporarily live.
Simon Nunez, Hurricane Victim
"Well, I do food vendoring. If you notice you can see my stove right in the water there. I just bought a big stove last year and it is with that I cook and go to the work places and provide my own little living."
"You lost everything."
"Yeah, everything. Everything just gone. I managed with about two suits of clothing, but the food... I hope they bring in a lot of things like that."
"Right next to you, your brother lives. He too lost his house as well."
"My brother just like me right now, trying to get some lumber too. My brother lost every thing too."
Daniel Maldonado, Hurricane Victim
"We are very poor. This is my house and we need help."
"What kind of help does the family need?"
"Food, clothes, we lost everything, everything. We need some help, like clothes, food and lots of things."
"There were 8 of you living in the house?"
"I think a little bit more. My niece, 4 of my brothers, my mom, and my dad and me."
"So where are you all doing the cooking and everything right now?"
"We are doing the cooking over there with fire(hearth) and so, just beans we are cooking right now."
"A lot of people lost their homes in areas like San Pedrito, the poor people here on the island. What is you all are doing here to provide shelters to these people?"
Jim Muhammed, Operations Manager, NEMO San Pedro
"I have some British Military boats arriving with tent supplies. We are going to set up a tent area by the high school. Like I said, these people who have no homes, we are putting them under tents. A lot of them we are going to get some boats to come and if they want to get back to the mainland, to their families because they have no homes and their families can provide for them and put them up, so we will be setting up... In fact the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries are going to send some fisheries boats our here to assisting in taking these families back to the mainland, so they can go home. They are safer there in a much more controlled environment."
Although hundreds of San Pedranos and tourists managed to make it to shelters, there were many families living along the lagoon who were trapped and could not move to safety. Melesio Cano and Mirian Daniels were 2 of 6 people who waited out the storm inside this structure which use to be a house.
Mirian Daniels, Hurricane Victim
"The wind start to blow hard and the water started raising fast. We couldn't move, and the wind and the wave was too high."
"6 of you guys were in the kitchen, but the front part of the kitchen blew away. What did you guys do?"
Melesio Cano, Hurricane Victim
"Well we said we were going to die right here because we already saw the we didn't have anything in front of us, everything was gone."
"So the water was rising, the wind was blowing pretty hard. Did you guys tie yourselves together, what did you do?"
"Because 3 of them couldn't swim, we couldn't leave them right there, we had to take care of those 3. One hour, my head couldn't..."
"You were totally confused."
"Yeah, because we tried to come out from the window, but the water scared them, so we had to hold on and climb in again."
"Mirian, you can't swim, so when that water started to take you, what did you do?"
"I had a gallon that I was holding onto, me and my husband so that we could go. But when I jumped, the water... I can't even touch the ground because it washed my away. I just grabbed back onto the window and my boyfriend shoved me back over. I was scared. I never experienced a hurricane yet. It's my first one."
A temporary emergency medical clinic has been set up at the Sunbreeze Hotel. According to Doctor Victor Rosado they have been busy.
Dr. Victor Rosado
"Cut wounds to the foot from people walking around, getting cuts in the clean up efforts that they are having. Respiratory track infections because of the high humidity, people are coming in. We have a lot of asthma attacks and upper respiratory track infections because of having been locked up in rooms for extended periods of time. That is the majority of the cases that we are seeing."
"You're saying that there is a probability that down the road you all might see an increase of cases here with people coming down with probably diarrhea and that sort of thing?"
Dr. Victor Rosado
"Well that is definitely a possibility after a disaster of this magnitude, we will have problems with diarrhea and respiratory track illness definitely, but we have to start looking at is potable water. Water supply is very important to reduce the risk of having diarrhea diseases and respiratory track infections as well to a certain degree."
Several businesses were also greatly damaged including Ramon's Village and The Boatyard.
Sari Veidrine, Owner, The Boatyard
"We sustained incredible damage. The restaurant's gone, the bar's gone, and the boatyard's gone. The house needs to be totally redone. We have a house up north that we have not been able to get up to, to check on yet to see what the damages were. we heard our dogs are gone, all of our dogs are gone here. Unfortunately we had all the boats here, so we tied the boats as long as we could all through the night and then the docks went and all the boats went."
"How many vessels did you guys lose?"
"I would say at least 40 vessels. My husband's out of the country, so we haven't been able to reach him and he can't get in here, so he doesn't know as yet. We've tried to get a crew together as best we can. Aaron over there is a pilot for Tropic and came to help me as much as he can to get the crews back together to clean up the mess and try and save as many engines as we can. The problem is that we don't have fresh water to be able to wash the engines and oil to be able to get the crane going. Our tractor's stuck under there, so we can't... we have to get all these boats out to even get our tools out and most of our tools are gone, so we're doing the best we can."
Tropic Air sustained some damage when the roof of their hanger blew off. However, the airline is back in business using their bigger planes that were moved to Belmopan.
John Greif, Manager, Tropic Air
"By the morning of the hurricane, the winds were to strong for us to fly our small planes all, so all our small planes stayed here and they were everywhere from totaled to slightly damaged. We had one caravan in the hangar and it was slightly damaged."
Despite their enormous loss, the people on San Pedro have remained optimistic and are working hard to put things back to normal. A large contingent of BDF soldiers and the British Army are on the island assisting with the recovery efforts.
"We were rather worried about security, you always have a bad element in every community and sometimes it's if that element is not kept in check it can cause chaos. The BDF generally are patrolling the streets, we are sending British Army to patrol the streets with them, but very minimal. The major job that the British army is doing for me is helping me set containment positions for food and storage of food and all that. Also we are going to put a few tents up which, if it is absolutely necessary, to shelter somebody. Some of the people are going back in homes where the zinc is hanging very precariously of the roof. So rather than put them in that danger, we want to put them under tentage right now until we can get those roofs fixed. It won't be long before the zinc and supplies are on the island available that they can start fixing their roofs.
"NEMO has set up two barge. There is a container of food coming out here, which will keep the people we need to feed for almost 4 to 7 days. I presume it will be approximately be 5 days worth of food that we will have, which is supposed to be arriving later on this afternoon. Also, we asked Hon. Patty Arceo to put up a list of things while the hurricane was going to figure out what we might need, and we do need it, generators and chain saws and all of this stuff that NEMO is putting onboard for us. Also, in that shipment is zinc and plywood."
Although San Pedro suffered heavy damage, most of the tourism services on the island have not been affected. Mayor Alberto Nunez says that in 3 weeks time the island of Ambergris Caye will once again be ready to warmly receive tourists.
In an update on the fatality we reported yesterday, we can confirm that the body recovered is that of U.S. resident of San Pedro Kay Smith. She was one of a crew of five who were moving a chartered catamaran to what they thought were sheltered waters off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye. It appears that the boat was overtaken by hurricane Keith and blown all the way to Lighthouse Reef, where Smith's body was recovered, along with a survivor, Henry Bahh. Still unaccounted for are crewmembers Buddy Smith, who is Kay's husband, Sergio Alamilla and Oswaldo Moz. Meanwhile, we have not seen the last of hurricane Keith. Its massive rains are now flowing rapidly toward the sea and along the way threaten a number of areas with severe flooding. The waterways most affected are the Hondo and Belize Rivers, which are still rising.