Villages on Rio Hondo are isolated
Rivers continue to rise in much of northern Belize and concern
now focuses on both the human and economic suffering occasioned on
the mainland in the aftermath of hurricane Keith. An extensive aerial
survey by News Five this morning showed that a number of communities
have been hard hit by floodwaters in the Belize, Orange Walk and
Corozal Districts. As we first reported on yesterday's newscast the
village of Crooked Tree is no longer accessible by road. This view
from the air shows that the causeway is covered by many feet of water
for what appears to be several miles. The rising waters are also
beginning to flood numerous structures along the lagoon, including
houses and resorts.
Moving to the Orange Walk District the major trouble spot is the Rio
Hondo. Blue Creek appears to be the hardest hit and that Mennonite
community's vital production of rice and cattle will be curtailed for
perhaps as long as a year. Those viewers familiar with the area will
notice that the endless sea of green fields has now become... just a
Mennonite losses are large
David Dyck, the community's co-chairman, told News Five that
Blue Creek's losses will run to around 6 million dollars.
David Dyck, Co-Chairman, Blue Creek
"Well this is spoilt. If it stays underwater more than a week, it's
lost. If it goes down quick, then we can still harvest it, but not if
it stays longer. They expect this to last maybe for a month because
it's still going up."
"What's that going to mean to the housewife and the rest of the
"Well we have to eat something else. We have to eat cattle, we have
lots of cattle and no grass."
"What are you going to do with all the cattle, that flying over, it
looks like they were stranded out there with barely any land to
"I myself have 2,800 acres of land under water and we have maybe
about 20% that's grass and I don't know what I'll do with the cattle.
I have to find something because I our road to the city is blocked
off and so cannot haul them out to somewhere else, and in this area
we don't have any grass. I don't know yet. We might canoe out for a
month or so, but more than I month I don't know what to do."
Dyck said that he estimates that Blue Creek received approximately 30
inches of rain and that 95% of the community's rice crop will be
destroyed. He will attempt to move his 1,400 head of cattle to
makeshift pastures on higher ground, but at present all roads out of
the area are impassable by even the highest vehicles.
Downstream communities face flooding
As bad as things are in Blue Creek, they are just a preview of
what communities downstream will suffer as the determined waters of
the Rio Hondo wind their way to the sea some 75 miles away. And not
just Belize is affected. On your screen is the Mexican village of La
Union, just a long jump across the Rio Hondo from Blue Creek. It too
has been cut off from the rest of the nation and Mexican army
helicopters have been busy ferrying supplies from Chetumal.
On the Belize side of the border the three villages in the most
trouble are San Antonio, San Roman and Douglas. As these pictures
show, parts of San Antonio are already underwater.
The same goes for San Roman Village, which lies several miles
downstream from San Antonio and will receive its peak flooding
perhaps as much as a day later.
Still further downstream the village of Douglas is under threat, as
are surrounding agricultural lands. All the villages mentioned are
cut off from road communication and in many cases bridges have been
washed out and ferries rendered inoperable. We hope to have
additional video of these villages shot from ground level, later in
Sugar loses predicted to be $10 million
The wind, rain and rising waters have impacted more than just the
residents of northern Belize. Sugar, the economic mainstay of the
region, not to mention the entire nation, has also taken a hit. An
official team representing all facets of the sugar industry did a
flyover of cane lands this morning and their report should be ready
next week. For the present, BSI had reported significant flooding of
the fields around San Victor, Douglas, San Roman, San Antonio and San
Estevan. Some cane is totally underwater, while additional acreage is
partially inundated. Belize Sugar Industries has the potential to
process 1.2 million tons of cane and before Keith was looking forward
to deliveries of 1.1 million. In the wake of Keith's devastation BSI
is now estimating a crop of only 950,000 tons. This should translate
into a little over 90,000 tons of sugar. The lost production, which
will come out of world market sales, means that export revenues may
be reduced by as much as ten million Belize dollars.
Fishing industry will also suffer
Sugar is not the only major industry to be touched by Keith. Tourism
of course will suffer on San Pedro and Caye Caulker and so will
another economic activity: fishing. Bobby Usher of the Northern
Fisheries Cooperative told News Five that his co-op's receiving
station at Caye Caulker has been destroyed and so have most skiffs
and motors belonging to fishermen. In addition most lobster traps
around the cayes have been scattered and buried. No estimates have
been made, but the losses in the coming months and next year should
be substantial for both lobster and conch producers. Usher says that
fishermen in the south whose waters were not affected will have to
try and take up some of the slack.
Insurance companies begin to settle claims
One institution designed to ease the pain of disasters like
Keith is called insurance. It is difficult to estimate how many
claims have arisen from this hurricane, but adjusters have been
working around the clock to get them settled. This afternoon we spoke
to the head of one of the nation's largest insurers to get a feel for
Tony Flynn, Managing Director, Regent Insurance Company
"I think a lot of the middle classes and the people who borrow money
from the banks will have insurance, but the grass roots unfortunately
"At this time can you give us an estimate of the insured damage?"
"No not really. I haven't quite got a handle on that yet. I have had
some 75, 80 claims reported to me since we opened after Keith and we
will still keep getting some after a few days."
"Claims that have been coming in, are they from the cayes?"
"I think 90% of all the claims will come from Caye Chapel, Caye
Caulker and San Pedro."
"For those who have not made claims as yet, how should people go
about making claims?"
"I think the easiest thing to do is just notify your insurance
company preferably in writing although we have been getting faxes
from all over and just say we have suffered damage because of
hurricane Keith, please come and see it."
"Will companies be bringing adjusters from abroad?"
"On Monday afternoon I contacted my adjusters in Miami. I was in Fort
Lauderdale at the time this happen. We had 10 adjusters come in on
the first plane on Wednesday."
"A very important question is and I think it is one that is on
everyone's mind is how quickly will claims be settled?"
"That will depend on company to company really. First of all certain
companies keep liquid assets ready for this type of eventuality. It
depends on your relationship with your own bankers; it depends on
your relationship with your reinsurers. I mean if you got say 10
million dollars worth of claims, there is no way that a Belizean
company can pay all that amount in the first week. But I would expect
if they got a good relationship with their bankers and reinsurers and
they got clients, who are very patient this won't take too long."
Don't forget that there are another two months left in this year's
hurricane season, so even if Keith caught you uninsured, it's still
not too late to be covered for the next one.
Mercy Kitchen helps elderly victims
In times of disaster the most stress is invariably placed on
the people who are least able to help themselves. Jackie Woods today
visited one institution dedicated to providing assistance to those
who need it most.
Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Due to the damage sustained by their homes many elderly residents of
Belize City have been especially burdened. The Mercy Kitchen an
organization which helps care for our older folks has been trying
hard to make things easier.
Alicia Martin, Co-Director, Mercy Kitchen
"We have a vehicle where we can take them and I have seen you know
they are trying to evacuate. Some of them having to dig drains so
that the water can get out of their yards and some of them have
repairs, but they don't have anywhere else to go but here. They are
elderly and they are very poor. Some of them have relatives, but they
are poor also. The only voice they have is here at Mercy Kitchen."
"Has the Mercy Kitchen done any kind of assessment to see just how
many of our elderly are suffering right now?"
"Yes. We have done with housing and planning 5 houses. I approached
them about maybe 3, 4 months ago, and they did an assessment. I have
been calling like every week for some assistance and nothing has been
"And now they are even in a worst position."
"Yes, so I am here, with a plea for them because they will soon not
have anywhere else to go."
If you would like to assist the Mercy Kitchen in anyway possible
please contact, Alicia Martin at 1055 Coral Grove or you can give
them a call at 44052.
Mayor clarifies shelter policy
As we reported earlier in the week, one of the most
disappointing aspects of hurricane Keith's aftermath was the filthy
condition of the shelters after they were vacated. Today we spoke to
Mayor David Fonseca who explained how the shelters were administered.
"The schools that were used as shelters, the damage they received was
not from the effects of the hurricane itself but from the people who
stayed there. They (the teachers) were saying perhaps NEMO could have
been a little more organized. Now we have two months left in the
hurricane season, what everyone wants to know is what NEMO Belize
will do in this event?"
David Fonseca, Mayor, Belize City
"Previously when we had to use shelters the managers of these
shelters would have been public officers. It was found over the years
that it was not effective for a number of reasons. So a decision was
made since Mitch to have the BDF personnel be the manager of the
shelter, and there is a management team that has been put in place
for each shelter. Of course the human element sets in when these
storms comes around and some of us don't appear at our respective
posts. This has happened during hurricane Keith. The BDF responded
properly with the assistance of the police being a part of the team.
In some cases we had the Red Cross there and the other part of the
team did not show up."
"The cleaning up and the destruction of some of the assets of the
shelter? Yes that did happen."
Lisa Clare, Teacher
"When you get in your classroom, the stench was so disgusting, your
charts, your books, everything. They left the toilet paper they used
to urinate in the classroom. The toilet paper rolled are right
Darren Humes, Teacher
"You have seen here. I am refusing to clean my classroom."
"The people using the facility should have been glad they had
somewhere to go and should have stayed back or maintain the place
clean during their stay. Yes, teachers have a point to complain, but
as responsible citizens we should lend assistance to do a part by
cleaning up their respective schools. And they can contribute that as
their contribution to the whole aspect to the effects of hurricane
"There have been requests by NEMO to the teachers, principals and
managers to make an assessment to what damages were done, and to hand
that report in to the Ministry of Education, in order for that to
take place, so I'm pretty sure assistance will be coming through
Volunteers assist city in cleanup
Since Tuesday, the Belize City Council has been organizing
community groups and volunteers to assist with the city's clean up
efforts. The council is also collecting supplies to aid the victims
of hurricane Keith.
Paco Smith, Public Relations Officer, Belize City Council
"What we have here behind me is a large donation of clothing. The
majority of it came from a gentleman by the name of John Craven, but
also we've had individuals from throughout Belize City donating
clothing, food, bottled water, and different things like that. In
addition, yesterday we had 10 Peace Corps volunteers from the United
States Peace Corps come in and help to out sort out all of these
"This is a concerted effort with the Belize City Council and our
offices. For example our Pound Yard office is also out on maintenance
and cleaning up of the streets. We also have the Community
Participation Department, which is located at the Commercial Centre.
Their primary role is to assist in the collection of these volunteer
goods and to assist individuals who are desolate where as their
houses were destroyed. I'd just like to clarify one point though; the
Community Participation Department is not giving out homes. What
they're doing is assisting those in need to find shelter."
If you would like to volunteer your services with the city's clean up
campaign, Smith can be reached at the council's office at 109 North
Front Street or by calling 02-72308.
Red Cross plays leading role
The Belize Red Cross continues to serve as a focal point for
hurricane relief, both as a recipient of funding and disperser of
aid. In addition to major donations from the international and
American Red Cross organisations, PACT and IDB, recent financial help
has come from the Bank of Nova Scotia, Gentrac and Caterpillar. The
Scouts have cooperated by launching a countrywide appeal for canned
goods that will be distributed by the Red Cross. Already emergency
supplies have been sent out to stricken areas on the cayes as well as
villages on the mainland now isolated by floods.
In related news Belizeans abroad have rallied to the cause. If you
are seeing this newscast on the Internet the Belize Association of
Florida is organizing a shipment for October eleventh. Please call
(305) 477-0944 or (954) 431-1808 for information.
Body of second victim found at San Pedro
One more body has been found off San Pedro Ambergris Caye. At this
time police say that due to the advanced state of decomposition they
have been unable to identify it. According the police the corpse is
that of a man and it was found floating in the waters off the caye.
Authorities strongly suspect that he may be one of the persons
missing from a catamaran that was caught in hurricane Keith and
overturned. On Tuesday, the body of Kay Smith was discovered and
Henry Bahh, the only person off the boat found alive, is presently
hospitalized in the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. Still missing at
sea are Kay's husband Buddy Smith, Sergio Alamilla and Oswaldo Moz.
Orange Walk District watches and waits
While News Five's small staff of reporters and cameramen have
been on the go now for the better part of a week, we could not have
covered this story without the help of our colleagues around the
country. We have just received additional footage from Centaur
Television in Orange Walk and the following clips from Orange Walk
Town, San Antonio and San Roman come courtesy of that station.
Jorge Novelo, Resident, San Roman
"The situation in San Roman is so serious right now because we can't
come out from the village. We need boats to come out and we can't
come out without things anyway, so we can't come out from the
Manuela Ayuso, Centaur TV
"Did your village receive a lot of damage? Do you have families who
are out of homes? Any flooding of homes?"
"Everybody stayed in the village. The damage to the homes are not
much, only some of the roofs, but we fixed that."
"I understand that you significant damage to your agricultural crops.
Tell us a little bit about that."
"We will have that when this flooding goes down, because the cane,
the corn, all of that got damaged."
"I noticed that the bridge is flooded. I know that there is a road
behind that bridge and we cannot tell which is the road now, so are
you able to tell us how far is this flooding?"
"The flooding from the road to go to Orange Walk is one mile from the
bridge. You can't see the road right now because the water is so
high. There is about 4 feet of water on top of the street on the road
to go to Orange Walk."
"Do you have any problems in getting food supplies to the village?"
"Yes we have some problems. The village needs food right now."