Part I: Winter 2001/2002 Newsletter: December, 2001
Kevin Modera Guide Services/Destinations Belize
The Eye of Iris
As many of you may know, on October 8 of this year, Hurricane Iris hit the
Placencia Peninsula with vengeance.
Independence Village, Monkey River Town and the Maya settlements in the
Toledo District south of Placencia were also hard hit.
Eighteen lives were lost when the San Pedro-based dive boat, the M.V. Waver
Dancer, capsized at the height of the Hurricane (additional information
available at BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/americas/newsid_1588000/1588095.stm
Iris hurt our tropical paradise and many lost homes, businesses and
livelihoods. But, Placencians are known throughout Belize as a determined
bunch, and rebuilding of our area started as soon as our initial shock began
to wear off, with more rebuilding taking place every day.
Still, southern Belize was changed by Iris, so we thought it might be
helpful to provide the following information on the status of local
communities, activities, hotels, restaurants, resorts and services.
(We apologize for the length of this newsletter, but we wanted to provide as
much information to you as possible.)
Part I of this Newsletter:
--Locations/Communities: Placencia Village, Seine Bight Village, Monkey
River Town, Maya Beach, Cayes, Placencia Lagoon, Toledo District
Part II of this Newsletter (in separate email):
--Activities: Fishing, Snorkeling/Diving, Ruins/Jungle/Caves, Kayaking
Part III of this Newsletter (in separate email):
--Rest and Relaxation: Hotels/Resorts, Restaurants/Bars, Tours, Events
--Organizations: Schools, Village Councils, Humane Society
--Transportation: Airlines, Roads, Buses, Ferries
--Services: Bank, Police, Tourist Center, Co-op, Grocery Stores, Health
Other than the lives lost in the Wave Dancer tragedy (see above), no lives
were taken by Hurricane Iris. However, structural damage was significant,
and the following describes damage and rebuilding efforts in the communities
of Placencia Village, Seine Bight Village, Maya Beach and Monkey River Town.
--Placencia Village: Because of the Village's location at the southern tip
of the Placencia Peninsula, Hurricane Iris hit Placencia Village almost dead
center, crossing land at Lat. 16.55 and Long. 88.48 -- Placencia Village is
at Lat. 16.5167 Long. 88.3667. Estimates are that 75%-85% of the structures
in the Village were destroyed or damaged by the storm.
However, many home owners and businesses in Placencia Village started
rebuilding almost immediately after Iris. Olga's Grocery and Professional
Building Supplies re-opened quickly to provide needed food and building
supplies to local residents. BJ's Restaurant operated as the command center
for local distribution of donated food and water, while The Galley
Restaurant fed relief and rescue workers, with Serenity Resort, Kitty's
Place and Robert's Grove providing housing for insurance adjusters and
Most businesses in Placencia Village plan to rebuild (and probably 80% were
at least partially insured). Jake's Internet Café opened on Thanksgiving Day
offering breakfast and lunch service, along with BJ's, Merlene's, The Galley
and J-Byrd's. Tradewinds plans to have 3 cabanas operational by December
15, with 3 more completed in January. Sea Spray Hotel, Serenade Hotel,
Manatee Inn, Harry's Cabanas, Carol's Cabanas and Blue Lagoon Apartments
have already re-opened. (Other local businesses are in the process of
rebuilding -- check http://www.kevinmodera.com/2001_res.htm
for updates on
the status of local businesses.)
--Monkey River Town: Only 2 buildings remained standing in Monkey River
after Iris struck and the roof blew off the hurricane shelter at the height
of Iris. However, Monkey River has benefited greatly from private and
governmental assistance with the rebuilding of homes at low interest rates
and most people there now have new homes (albeit small ones). Residents of
Monkey River Town are very anxious to again welcome anglers and visitors to
the Monkey River jungle.
--Seine Bight Village: Located north of Placencia Village, Seine Bight was
not as hard hit by the actual storm as Placencia Village or Monkey River
Town. However, almost as many structures in Seine Bight succumbed to the
storm surge due to the age and condition of the structures there. Some
rebuilding is occurring in Seine Bight, but few people were insured, and few
have the financial resources to rebuild. Government and private aid have
not yet produced any significant recovery in Seine Bight.
--Maya Beach: Because of its location at the northern end of the Peninsula,
most structures in Maya Beach were not heavily damaged by winds, although
water damage to first floors was significant. Most homeowners and
businesses were insured.
--Cayes: Ranguana Caye escaped with the loss of only the easternmost cabana
(and the Caye is actually a little larger than before Iris).
David Alvarez, the new owner of Ranguana, has appointed Kitty's Place as its
new manager, and work has already begun to rebuild the destroyed cabana, as
well as upgrading the existing cabanas. A new food service area is planned,
in addition to new private baths in each cabana. (Tent camping is no longer
available on Ranguana.) Frank's Caye in the Sapodilla Caye Range is
Other cayes did not fare as well as Ranguana Caye. Little Water Caye lost
all of its structures as did Morris Caye, George's Caye and Whipparey Caye.
Pompion Caye and Moho Caye were also heavily damaged. Cary Caye lost its
sand and mangroves were uprooted on cayes closest to the Peninsula. No
trees remain on Round Caye.
However, as mentioned in the activities section of this newsletter (in Part
II), over 50 cayes are in the waters off the Peninsula, and most of those
cayes did not suffer significant damage other than the stripping of leaves
from trees and bushes - much of which is quickly recovering. (We've watched
the vegetation come back day by day on Placencia Caye just off the dock area
in Placencia Village.)
--Placencia Lagoon: The Lagoon does not appear to have suffered much damage
other than the loss of leaves on some mangrove trees and the destruction of
some structures built close to the water's edge. Vegetation is regrowing
--Toledo District: Most Mayan communities within 75 miles of the coast in
the Toledo District were completely destroyed. Help was slow in reaching
these communities, many of which had no phones or other communication with
the outside world.
However, the Red Cross, the Belize Emergency Hurricane Net, NEMO, the
University of Belize and other local and international organizations are now
responding with assistance, including the building of homes, children's
disaster counseling and donations of seeds for crop replanting.
But, all banana plantations in the Toledo District were severely damaged or
destroyed, taking away the primary incomes of most people in these areas.
Plus, all milpa crops were destroyed, taking away the secondary source of
income and subsistence in the District. Conditions in the Toledo District
are still grim, although much improved since October.
--General Peninsula: BEL (Belize Electric Limited) did an amazing job in
installing new electric service along the entire length of the Peninsula in
less than a six weeks.
Restoration of water service has been much slower due to the total
destruction of the water line running under the Placencia Lagoon. However,
that line has now been replaced and installation of water lines to
individual homes and businesses in Placencia Village should soon be
complete. (We have been unable to obtain information on the status of water
service in Seine Bight Village.)
Unfortunately, BTL (Belize Telephone Limited) has not shown the perseverance
and dedication of BEL or the local water service company. A few temporary
phones have been installed in local businesses, but full phone service is no
t expected on the Peninsula until possibly July, 2002. (So please be
patient with responses to email inquiries.)
Regular garbage pickup has also resumed post-Iris.
NEMO (the Belize National Emergency Management Organization) has done a very
good job in coordinating emergency services in the Stann Creek and Toledo
Districts. Jim Manmohammed, a business owner from San Pedro appointed by
the government as the local coordinator, has done a herculean job in the
face of huge obstacles.
--Village Planning. The Placencia Village Council is now working on a
Master Plan for the entire Village which will include building codes, sewage
disposal, setbacks, police and fire protection, rights of way, ability of
the Village Council to condemn properties, etc. New 12-foot vehicular
rights of way will run from the road to the sidewalk. (Parts II and III