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Hurricane Richard batters Belize with rain, howling winds, then weakens to depression

BELIZE CITY (AP) - Hurricane Richard battered Belize, blowing rickety homes off stilts and knocking out power to most of the tiny Central American country, before weakening to a tropical depression Monday and heading toward Mexico.

Richard made landfall as a hurricane Sunday night just south of Belize City, knocking down thousands of trees and power lines. Thousands of homes lost their roofs or suffered severe damage. Some flimsy wood-and-tin houses were blown off the stilts that hold them above soggy or flood-prone land.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow said in a national address Monday morning that the damage was in the millions of dollars, though he did not have an exact estimate.

An estimated 10,000 people in Belize took refuge at storm shelters in schools and churches ahead of the arrival of the storm, and there were no reports of deaths.

Donna Young, a Belize City resident, said she huddled in a corner with her four dogs as her house shook furiously in the wind all night long.

"I thought I was going to die," she said repeatedly Monday morning, fighting back tears.

By Monday morning, the storm was a tropical depression with winds near 35 mph (55 kph), according to the U.S. national Hurricane Center in Miami. Additional weakening was expected as it heads into Mexico.

Richard was centered about 145 miles (235 kilometers) south of Campeche, Mexico, and was moving west-northwest near 8 mph (13 kph). The depression's center is expected to enter the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday morning.

Belize City was devastated by Hurricane Hattie in 1961, prompting officials to move the capital inland to Belmopan. But Belize City is still the nation's largest population center, with about 100,000 inhabitants - a third of the country's population.

Tourists had already been evacuated from Caye Caulker and nearby Ambergris Caye, but some local residents decided to ride out the storm.

"We got all the tourists out, and get the whole place secured down," said Rafael Marin, the caretaker at the Anchorage Resort hotel.

Earlier, Richard dumped heavy rains on Honduras' Caribbean coast and the Bay Islands, including Roatan, which is popular with tourists and divers.

Observers reported winds of up to 58 mph (93 kph) on Roatan, and more than 90 people took refuge in shelters in the Bay Islands, which lie between Honduras and Belize.

Lisandro Rosales, the head of Honduras' Permanent Emergency Commission, said no deaths or injuries had been reported in Honduras.

But Richard's heavy rains did cause a landslide that blocked a highway in northern Colon province, cutting off about 15,000 residents in 40 small towns. Crews were working to clear the road.

Live and let live
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 6,267
Damage estimate posted on the news - 33 Million. About 3.5 in housing, the rest being damage to agriculture. Further assessments are in progress.

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400

What it is now/the storm in city

When we left you on Friday night, Richard was a tropical storm meandering in the Caribbean; tonight, the country is recovering from his wrath: Hurricane Richard was no joke�..

For those living in parts of Southern, Central and Western Belize, the storm was a terror, descending with merciless winds and hammering the Belize district coast for 6 hours.

Happily, there is no loss of life but there is substantial damage to sections of the country in the Belize City, Cayo and Stann Creek Districts - and as we broadcast this tonight we know that most of our viewers in Belize City, Cayo and Stann Creek can't see the news because power has not been restored. We'll have the full official assessment coming up a little later, but we begin our team coverage with the storm's landfall.

The eye of Hurricane Richard made landfall south southwest of Belize City at about 6:00 on Sunday evening with maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour, making it a category one storm.

The storm force winds started descending on the city around 2:00 pm - and our team was on the ground. Jules Vasquez and Monica Bodden teamed up for this story:�.

At around 3 in the afternoon - with these flags above the courthouse getting a workout, Police guarded neighborhood supermarkets to avoid any pre storm antics - and police also guarded this gas station.

These shelterers were turned away from Grace Primary - while at St. John's Vianney these folks were loading up - and in the Yabra area - these folks were shuttering up.

The marine parade area was gusty - while the waters thick with sewage were vile and black with the outer bands upon Belize, the seawall near lover's point in the king's park area was getting turbulent. An hour later - the same area was piping heavy winds and the storm was driving across marine parade in sheets - a fog of pure force of the tide - as the storm's spume sprayed the area.

Back to the lover's point area - it had gone from wavy to wild - with deep bilious waves and biting winds

Jules Vasquez
"Here at St. Edward Street you can't see anything, the waters are turbid, we were here an hour ago, it's now 4 minutes to 4 we were here an hour ago and it was just a little rough but now its unmanageable. The rains are singing the winds are in excess of 40 miles an hour, its crazy out here and the eye has not arrived yet."

At the other end of that seafront street - the fury of the storm - was something to behold - waves crashed in explosive surges - and the street flowed like a river�

One Princess Margaret drive this nurse was running home through fallen fronds - and at 5:00 pm this phase two flag at the Belcan roundabout was in tatters and this billboard had already been blown away - while this one just toppled over. And down the street at Malic's poultry this sign was impaled on a sign post - while the main sing was adrift like a kite� Speaking of kites, the flag at the Taiwanese embassy was reduced to a rag. To show you how quickly conditions deteriorated, this was the area in front of the Fort Street tourism village at 5:00 pm and half an hour later - this was how it looked tents dragged into the street.

But these folks were undaunted - they wanted a walk on the wild side and wild it was with the storm surge now flailing over the marine parade seawall.

Down the street - the zinc sheeting at the MCC was curled up and the trees were battered and broken. At the rock park, the sea spray show was in effect and on St. Thomas Street this sign dangled helplessly. The homeless were also helpless - having to endure the storm - exposed to the elements - conditions so bad it was time for Monica Bodden to take over:

Monica Bodden
"We are at the height of the storm with 90-100 miles per hour wind. Belize City is being battered by Hurricane Richard."

At that point 5:40 pm - driving down most streets was no longer an option and on Baymen Avenue was impassible because of this massive tree toppling - the same a few blocks away on second street.

The signs were in the streets as the winds wailed down narrow streets - that one fallen this one about to and while we thought that was the height of it - it got significantly worse 40 minutes later - where even doing a standup became near impossible due to the force of wind and rain:

Monica Bodden
"Its 6:10 pm and the most accurate is that the eye of the storm is over Belize City but as you can see there is no calm."

And no calm and no shelter.

And about an hour and a half after that your waterlogged camera and light failed and we had to go in.

We note that after our team was forced to retire by waterlogged equipment - they almost became news themselves as they got trapped in fast rising waters at 8:00 pm on Marine Parade. Jules Vasquez and Monica Bodden had to call on the Lo-Boy form city council to come and rescue them after their pickup became submerged.

They were promptly rescued and were high and dry shortly after - but that wasn't the only bit of storm misfortune that struck channel 7. Our broadcasting tower at our mile one a half transmission site was tugged down when a massive tree fell unto one of the guy wires and it caused the tower to buckle and collapse unto a high tension wire. It became mangled because the guy wires on the other side held up - creating a most unusual sight. But that's no consolation to us as it has crippled our broadcasting service and made it difficult to restore power form the mains. So if you're seeing this tonight - you are doing so through our fiber optic network with our cable providers. Some of those fiber lines were also damaged when the tower fell on them - so at this time Central Cable has not been reconnected, only CBC and Southern Cable - but we are working to restore all options at this time - so please bear with us.

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400

CEMO making first assessments and disbursements

And while Richard left our shores, it is going to take a while before the lives of those affected will return to normalcy. To help the many thousands in Belize City, the City Emergency Management Organization, CEMO, is making first assessments and disbursements, but is also relying on NEMO. Chairperson of CEMO, Mayor Zenaida Moya Flowers, says there are lots of areas that need to be addressed to rebuild the lives of people in the old capital.

Zenaida Moya Flowers, Chairperson, CEMO, Belize City

Zenaida Moya-Flowers

"We were out looking at what needs to be done. We must say that as usual there are particular areas that need help. As it pertains to work on the ground, there are several homes that we will need to try and get assistance to. That will be done through our DANA (Damage Assessments and Needs Analysis) subcommittee of which we will be working along with NEMO. So when we go out, we do the assessment and we pass it to NEMO. Infrastructural assistance as it pertains to people's homes if it can be deduced that it was done because of the hurricane. We are working along with the Belize Maintenance Limited, BML, ensuring that the trains are shaped quickly. Even in terms of picking up the garbage, we have trucks that are moving along picking up debris all over. So we are asking residents to put their debris along street sides and front of their homes and we will be moving those as well. I was in contact of some of the mayors. The mayor from Corozal did inform me already along with the mayor from Benque. So Mayor Hilberto Campos from Corozal and Mayor Nicholas Ruiz from Benque already informed me that they will be assisting. We had councilor Eric Chang and City Engineer, Benjamin Mendoza, the B.D.F. there and these people where there to the back of the truck rescuing people along with our councilor Singh and our team and something chopped him here."

Marion Ali


Zenaida Moya Flowers

"Councilor Chang. We are lucky that it's something-he got his stitches-but that could have been worse. But the point is we were out there. We weren't in the media, but we were out there on the ground doing our work. We want to help people but people also have to work with us, so we have decided that we are going to work with the Met Office in terms of advise that at a certain point when it is landfall, they will advice us as in what time we should cut off the moving in terms of rescue. People will simply need to understand that because it is lives we are talking about."

The dollar value in damages for the city is not yet known, but housing and infrastructure took a packing. Richard has now weakened considerably into a tropical storm but heavy rainfall is likely in northern Guatemala and nearby Quintana Roo in Mexico tonight.

Channel 5

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400

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