HURRICANE KEITH UPDATE OCT 14TH, 2000 , 7:30 a.m. EST, by Ray
Auxillou, of the Belize Development Trust.
The islands of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker hit by Hurricane Keith.
The Hurricane Emergency, now a reconstruction phase, with order coming
out of the chaos as the days pass, is right on schedule as we projected
back at the beginning, during the last days of the hurricane.
The Government of Belize has been responding to the situation in what
can only be described as a brilliant example of EMERGENCY RELIEF WORK.
As a regular cynic and government critic, I knew they had it in them to
do so. But never believed they would perform so well. Right now, this
critic's timetable for relief and recovery work is running about 4 days
ahead of projected schedules on the two islands. The pace is picking up,
with more specialist teams arriving to deal with specific problems of
relief, reconstruction and infra-structure. All the stops have been
pulled out. Money problems and the increase in the National Debt is not
even being considered.
Tourism on the two islands will be viable in November. Not 100%, but
it will be viable! Certainly, as much as can be done for this season,
will be viable by December 1st.
INLAND AND TO THE NORTH
The story inland is sadder. In the recent history of Belize over the
last 135 years, there is no oral verbal record of a flooding like this
one. Belize gets floods regularly. Top gallon floods, but they usually
dissipate in a week or two. This flood is like no other we can find in
history. It is not going away before December/January.
The waters are still rising. The reason for this is, that Hurricane
Keith started the REGULAR RAINY SEASON. It opened with a bang!
Hurricane Keith dumped rain in torrential amounts over northern Belize
and the Peten jungles to the West in Guatemala.
The Belize River and the Rio Hondo and the New River drain this vast
area of a million square miles. All that water has to come out
someplace. A whole lot of it, has to pour through Belize to the sea.
This is rainy season, through October and November. Keith filled up the
rivers and jungles and saturated the ground right at the beginning of a
normal rainy season. We still have to get through the rainy season with
more rain. The tree roots of trillions of trees acts like a sponge to
hold the water back in storage in the Peten jungles. But the sponge got
soaked full by the torrential rains of Hurricane Keith. The rainy season
which now follows today and through to December is putting more rain,
into a system that cannot contain it. You are not going to see flash
floods. But the waters continue to rise in Belize and probably will
fluctuate up and down a bit, as more rain comes on from the rainy
season. The rainy season is worse over the Peten than over Belize, but
we are going to get that water down here in the north of Belize.
The flood should start to subside mid December and into January.
Around February and March things should be back to normal and planting
can take place. Food crops will come back around June/July next year.
This poses a problem for relief efforts. There are about 15,000 people
in northern Belize that will need food until next June.
Cattle of course are now dying from starvation and drowning in record
numbers, in the thousands is expected to be the final toll. But
chickens, turkeys, ducks and pigs also. The crops are gone, both the
commercial export crops and also the subsistance food crops with which
most people in the north feed themselves. The problems in the north are
going to extend until next June. Life will not even be able to start a
reconstruction phase until late January. Thats a long time and needs
some long term planning and solutions.