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#7453 - 10/05/00 08:41 PM Round-Up of News about the Impact of Hurricane Keith on Belize
Marty Offline
By Lan Sluder
Editor & Publisher
Belize First Magazine http://www.turq.com/belizefirst/


Summary

‚«Ę Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker were hit hard by Hurricane Keith.
Fortunately, only one person is known to have been killed and fewer than
10
people are missing. Scores of homes and some hotels were damaged on these
two resort islands. Several hundred island residents are homeless. Those
without property on the islands or other essential reason to be there
should
not attempt to come at this time. Repairs are under way, and the British
Army and Belize Defence Forces are on the islands. Boat and air service
between Belize City and Ambergris and Caulker are resuming. The islands
could welcome visitors again beginning in about two weeks. Hotel damage
reports are included in this update. Most hotels expect to have roof and
other repairs completed within two to four weeks, easily in time for the
high
season.

‚«Ę Most of mainland Belize had minimal impact from storm. There was
significant flooding in Belize City and on the Western and Northern
highways.
No deaths were reported as a direct result of the storm, but a Venus bus
accident on a flooded highway north of Belize City resulted in the death
of
three Belizeans. Placencia, Punta Gorda, Cayo, the Mountain Pine Ridge,
Orange Walk and Corozal had little if any damage and should be back to
normal
within days. No serious damage was reported to any hotels or other
tourist
site or facility in these areas or in Belize City. Airports including the
international airport are now open and international and domestic airlines
are flying again. Most roads are open and passable. After this week,
visitors should experience few if any difficulties traveling in mainland
Belize.

‚«Ę Remote cayes report no deaths or serious injuries and only moderate
to
light damage to facilities. Most resorts report no significant damage and
expect to reopen for business soon.

‚«Ę Belize officials estimate damage from the storm will reach US$200
million.
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This is an update, as of October 5, 2000, on what happened in Belize due
to
Hurricane Keith. As of this writing, telephones (except some cell phones)
and
power are still out on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker and so information
is
limited and preliminary. The best single source of information, on the
Internet or anywhere, is http://www.AmbergrisCaye.com. The Webmaster,
Marty
Casado, is in Oregon and is coordinating telephone, ham radio and e-mail
messages from Belize and elsewhere about the storm, then posting them on
his
Web site. (A sad aspect of the hurricane situation is that an apparently
mentally ill individual has been posting messages on the AmbergrisCaye.com
hurricane bulletin board falsely claiming that various hotels were
destroyed
and many people killed. This individual, who has plagued Belize bulletin
boards in the past, also has e-mailed persons posting on the bulletin
boards
claiming to be raising funds for hurricane relief. Those who receive
suspicious e-mail of this type should consider notifying the sender's
Internet Service Provider and also, if appropriate, police authorities.)


Background: A tropical depression appeared suddenly September 29 off the
coast of Belize and quickly grew into Hurricane Keith. On Saturday
morning,
Sep. 30, it was a weak tropical depression, and by late in the same day it
had become a Category 3 to 4 hurricane. It all happened so fast that there
was little time to prepare and almost no time to evacuate from the cayes
and
coastal areas.

Biggest Impact on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker: Belize's most popular
tourist destination, Ambergris Caye, and Belize's best known budget
destination, Caye Caulker, got the brunt of the storm. Winds of 120 mph +
pounded the islands for many hours. Water rose rapidly, especially on the
back sides of the island and may have reached 5 feet or more in height on
parts of the islands. One woman, a U.S. citizen and resident of San Pedro,
Kay Smith, has been reported dead, apparently of drowning. She and her
husband, Buddy Smith, who has been reported missing, were moving a 47-foot
catamaran when the storm hit. Before relocating to Ambergris Caye about a
year ago, the Smiths lived in the Bahamas and previously had lived in
North
Louisiana. A few other island residents are still missing or not yet
accounted for, but to date no other deaths have been confirmed.

Ambergris Caye: This resort island, about half the size of Barbados, was
hit
worse than any other part of Belize. The storm was unusual in that much
of
the wind and flooding came from the west or lagoon side, rather than from
the
Caribbean Sea side. A number of buildings, including at least some
hotels,
lost roofs or other parts of their structures. The most serious damage
appears to have been to small houses on the back (west) side of the
island.
Buildings with zinc or tile roofs in many cases had roof damage; those
with
concrete roofs generally made it through the storm without much damage.
One
of the hardest hit areas of the island was the section called San Pedrito
on
the lagoon side, where officials say an estimated 70% of homes were
destroyed.

Some flooding occurred on the east or sea side of the island. A number of
homes were damaged, mostly by winds which uprooted trees and ripped off
roofs. Most hotels appear to have made it okay, although many report
leaking or damaged roofs and some water damage. Among the hotel reports
we
have: Paradise Villas reports some roof and floor damage. Villas at
Banyan
Bay had moderate damage including loss of roof tiles. Management of
Victoria
House, which was closed for renovations in September, said the majority of
hotel‚«÷s rooms ‚«owill be open within the next couple of weeks and the
resort
should be fully operational by the end of the month.‚«• Two roofs were
blown
off the Victoria House casitas and the plantation room buildings but all
will
be repaired by the end of October, according to management. The
restaurant,
new pool and main hotel building were not damaged and will be the first
area
to re-open. Caribbean Villas reports some roof damage and roof tiles
blown
off and plans to reopen in about two weeks. Banana Beach and Mata Rocks
reported only minimal damage. Changes in Latitudes reports that it will
be
closed for at least two weeks to repair damage to the upper floor.
Ramon‚«÷s
Village had considerable damage to its thatch cabaAĪas. Gary Sagorka,
owner
of Tropica resort, reported, ‚«oTropica has not sustained any structure
damage
to speak of with the exception of roof shingles only on a here and there
basis. There was a minimal amount of water seepage into a few of the
rooms
that will require some new plaster board and painting.‚«• The local
manager of
Tropica, however, lost his home and all possessions. Cayo Espanto, a
luxury
resort on a small island in the lagoon on the back side of Ambergris Caye,
reportedly got significant flooding and damage.

On North Ambergris Caye, reports indicate that a number of private homes
were damaged. Journey's End was flooded, Sundiver had damaged roofs and
Mata
Chica, which was closed for the month, sustained significant damage.
Captain
Morgan‚«÷s, the Essene Way, El Pescador and Capricorn had some damage,
mostly
to roofs, but are still standing. The beach on North Ambergris is ‚«oa
mess‚«•
with a lot of debris.

Most hotels on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker are not accepting guests at
this time and likely will remain closed for at least a few days, some up
to a
month or more.

Several dozen boats, including dive boats and water taxis, are thought to
have been lost. Sara Vidrine, who with her husband operates a ferry
service
on the island, along with a restaurant, marina and other businesses, told
a
Belize television reporter: ‚«oWe sustained incredible damage. The
restaurant's gone, the bar's gone and the Boatyard's gone. The house needs
to
be totally redone.‚«• Tropic Air, headquartered in San Pedro, reported
that
some of its smaller aircraft were damaged.

Supply boats have been going to San Pedro since at least Tuesday. Removal
of
debris on the streets and repairs to buildings have begun. The airstrip
is
open and flights from Belize City have resumed. The British army has
erected
a tent on the island and is assisting the Belize Defence Force and local
police in maintaining order. Officials are urging that those without
property or without other essential reasons to be on the island should not
visit or stay on Ambergris Caye until power, water, telephones and other
services are back in place. This could take up to two weeks or longer.

One human interest sidelight is that a production crew of several dozen
people from Fox Television Network were on Ambergris Caye finishing the
filming of a "reality-based" TV show, "Temptations," and were caught by
the
storm. Reports indicate that they all are okay. Some crew members now
have
been flown back to the U.S.

Caye Caulker: This low-lying island south of Ambergris Caye where many of
the buildings are simple frame structures apparently had a number of roofs
and even complete homes blown away. About 30 houses on the island, mostly
on
the back side, were destroyed, according to reliable reports. However,
there
have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries. Reports are that
several
hotels on Caulker have been damaged. At least one report indicated that
fresh
water and food was in short supply on Caulker. A supply boat from Belize
City delivered 1,000 loaves of bread, which were quickly snapped up. Some
restaurants, including the Yahoo Deli and Sand Box, are preparing and
giving
away food on a first-come, first-serve basis. Officials have urged those
without property or other reason to be on Caye Caulker to go to the
mainland
until essential services have been put back in working order.

Belize City: Belize City experienced street flooding, in some areas up to
two feet in depth, and some homes and businesses sustained roof or other
damage. Karl Heusner hospital was ‚«oextensively damaged‚«• according to
Prime
Minister Said Musa, but it remains open. An 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for
Belize City was ordered starting Oct. 3. There have been some robberies
and
burglaries, but no looting or other problems have been reported. The
international and municipal airports, temporarily closed due to flooding,
have reopened. International airlines have resumed service to Belize, and
Continental has put larger equipment on the route so that it can carry
additional passengers.

Rest of Mainland Belize: There does not appear to have been much storm
damage in other parts of the mainland. Winds apparently never got above 40
mph in southern Belize (Dangriga, Placencia, Punta Gorda), and there was
no
storm surge and apparently no serious damage to beaches or reef. In
northern Belize, there was some rain but the feared storm surge in
Corozal/Chetumal Bay did not happen. In Corozal Town, the power didn't
even
go out except in isolated areas. Residents of Corozal Town evacuated, but
they soon returned to find no damage. Sarteneja got some wind and water
but
no serious problems are reported. Inland in Cayo and Orange Walk
districts,
rivers were high --the Macal was reported to be up to 20 feet above normal
--
and there was moderate rain and some flooding, and some damage to
agricultural crops, but the situation was nothing remotely like what
happened
in Honduras or Guatemala after Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The Western
Highway
was closed to most vehicles for a time but has now reopened. While not
directly related to the hurricane, three Belizeans were killed after a
Venus
bus plunged into a rain-swollen creek near Mile 65 of the Northern Highway
in
an area known as Mamayel. After this week, after river levels fall and
any
flooding is over, visitors to any area of mainland Belize should
experience
few if any travel problems. Virtually all hotels and tourist facilities
on
the mainland are now, or soon will be, operating normally.

Remote Cayes: Reports from outlying islands and resorts including
Lighthouse
Reef, Turneffe, Spanish Bay and Caye Chapel all report that all on the
islands are okay. So far, resorts on the islands are reporting only light
to
moderate damage.

Relief: Donations for Belize relief can be made through the American Red
Cross.

BELIZE FIRST will issue a fuller report on the impact of Hurricane Keith
in
Belize after all the facts are clear.

One question that we're getting a lot is "We have a trip planned to Belize
--
should we still plan on coming?" The best answer we can give at this
point
is: Stand by for more news, but things will get back to normal soon,
indeed
a lot sooner than you may think. Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker aren't
going
to be ready for visitors for several weeks, but most of the rest of the
Belize, including Placencia, Hopkins, Cayo and PG, haven't had any damage
to
the tourism infrastructure and are fully ready for visitors. The worst
thing
you could do is cancel a trip based on rumor or an ill-informed,
sensationalized newscast on CNN or other network. Tourism is vital for
Belize, and it is hoped that visitors won't cancel vacation plans
needlessly.

Top
#7454 - 10/05/00 08:43 PM Re: Round-Up of News about the Impact of Hurricane Keith on Belize
Kathy in Canada Offline
unbelievable!

Top

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