The bad news is that there was major structural damages to buildings in southern Belize, mainly in Monkey River. There is also the report of damage to one bridge in the Belize Rural area and damage also to a bridge in the south. But Monkey River is Ground Zero, and that’s the first place we went to today. Jules Vasquez went there by road and met Gilda Zuniga who was hardly hit. The earthquake split her house into two.
Gilda Zuniga, Affected
“It was very scary, I was like shouting for my son because he was in the other room and I just got lost in my own house. I was just so scared and I couldn’t find him.”
What type of impact did you all feel?
“Not really sure. but I know it was very hard. It shook very hard like ￼it was a board house and not a concrete house.”
Did you know what was happening?
“No I didn’t know, my husband told me it was a earthquake.”
Now after you saw the house and that your house is actually split in two and there are breaks all the in the yard, what is your…?
“Well, I started to cry and I started to feel very nervous and my whole body was shaking and I didn’t what to do so I just sat there and cry.”
How do you assess the damage?
“I still don’t know how we could fix the damage that was done to the house. This is the scariest thing I have ever experienced in my life, more than a hurricane.”
Clive Garbutt’s hotel was damaged. He says it seemed like the ground opened up and swallowed his hotel.
Clive Garbutt, Affected
“Last night around 20 minutes after 2:00 a.m., I was asleep and when I woke up everything was just shaking and then right then it took me a few seconds to realize that it was an earthquake and so I just ran outside. By the time ￼I got outside all my neighbours, they were screaming and kids screaming and heading out of their homes. I’ve lived out here all my life and I have never experienced an earthquake that shook the earth so much. As you could see when I got outside, most of this property was under water and water was just spouting out of the ground, that is what it looks like.”
Is there any explanation for this, where did the water come from?
“Well the water to me came from under the ground. It wasn’t from flooding or anything. It seems that it was just because of the building that was sinking, that is the reason why the water was popping up at that time. But walking around the village after daybreak, it seems like it was just popping up all over the village.”
How does this leave you emotionally?
“Well I am a survivor of hurricane Iris and I stood out there and I stayed out here and the damage on the structure now wasn’t anything like this earthquake. Even if you would go and buy insurance for your building, most families out here wouldn’t ask for earthquake insurance. So even if the building was insured, you would be left out on your own.”
Malvi Garbutt was caught off guard and had to run under her kitchen table for cover.
Malvi Garbutt, Affected
“Last night I heard the dogs barking and I peeped out through the window to see who they were barking after and I didn’t see nobody and so I heard a rolling, like when rain is coming, and when I looked I saw stars still in the sky and so I went back in my bed and I felt the house start to shake up, it was cracking and making a lot of noise and waked up my children and told them to get under the table and I felt the house start to shake up and make a lot of noise and felt when it sink and water started to gush out from around the posts.”
What did you think was happening?
“The first thing that came to my mind was earthquake. Couple years ago we had a little earthquake, but not like this.”
Can you still live in there?
“It is high and low, it feels bad. It feels like you are going up a hill and down a hill. I feel weak but I am still alive, I have my life”
Monkey River Chairman Mario Muschamp wasn’t in the village at the time of the quake, but arrived a short time later and gave us his assessment of the damage.
Mario Muschamp, Chairman
“I got here maybe like 4:30 this morning after everything took place ￼and seeing the damage now it is quite intensive.”
Have you made an assessment overall of the damage?
“Basically what we have seen is roughly 20 homes that have been damaged and like you said, maybe 7 or 8 with extensive damage.”
Are there shelter needs at this time?
“From what we can see, no, the houses are still liveable so I don’t think we need urgent shelter right now.”
Sir what you make of the stories of the water spouts that came up last night?
“From what I’ve heard, I’m sorry I missed out, some of the guys say that most of the places where the ground burst water went up some places like 10 feet into the sky like a geyser, something like that.”
Also on the ground was the Area Representative and Minister of Human Development Eden Martinez who gave us his reaction of the damage and told us about Government’s response.
Hon. Peter Eden Martinez, Area Rep.
“I couldn’t understand how nature could have been so devastating. My observations are that immediately I’ve seen two businesses in the community that have structural damage and there are 4 homes that have extensive structural damage also which will need immediate attention.”
As far the NEMO effort, the disaster relief effort, the Chairman told me water ￼at this time is an urgent need because the water system is out. What is NEMO’s focus of operation at this time?
Hon. Peter Eden Martinez,
“Well, this morning when I got in touch with my CEO in the Ministry of Human Development I was briefed that immediately 1,000 gallons of water would have been forthcoming and I know that the community has received quite some amount of that and then 500 more gallons will be coming after and I have also observed while going around that the village water system is already operational. So I know in terms of the water needs we are well on top of that. NEMO has kicked in to ensure that they get their supply of clean drinking water to the village.”
We met one frustrated villager.
“As I said to the other villagers I believe that maybe it is time for us to move out of Monkey River, honestly speaking because whatever bad comes our way or comes to Belize or to the southern part of the country we always get the worse of it.”
GOB’s Chief Engineer Lenox Bradley told us about his Ministry’s priorities.
Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer
“The Ministry of Works’ technical team is out here principally to check on the road infrastructure. We went as far as Bladen Bridge at Mile 54 on the Southern Highway. We just wanted to check that the bridges are in good shape and all the bridges from Belmopan coming through to Bladen Bridge on the Southern Highway seem to be in satisfactory condition.”
What have you found so far?
“It is only at Bladen that we have found some cracks but minor cracks, it is of not much of a significance because it is flexible pavement that we’re dealing with. It is not on the bridge itself it is on the road approach, about 30 feet from the actual bridge. We have some minor cracks but we will take care of that. And since we are a part of the NEMO organization, we said before we turn back to Belmopan, we will drop in Monkey River to see if any damage is done there so that we could share whatever assessment we come up with NEMO. On our way to Monkey River we noticed that the water tank shows some cracks and we certainly would recommend that that tank be brought down. We can’t tell if the tank is in use because of the colour of the water that is there all the joints on the water tank have cracks on it.”
Are structures, water systems, bridges, roads in Belize are they made to withstand earthquakes?
“Well they should be designed to withstand earthquakes, there is a factor of 0.5 that structural engineers are supposed to use for the southern area. So the design engineer should take that into consideration.”