The news will be a bit brief for the next week or so due to time constraints
88 San Pedro residents affected by devastating fire
As many as 88 residents have been left homeless after a devastating fire gutted through 17 homes shortly after midnight on Monday, June 27th. 11 buildings were totally destroyed, of which 8 were businesses and 3 were family homes. 6 buildings were partially destroyed. 27 families, totaling 88 people, have been affected by the most devastating fire San Pedro has seen in recent history. 21 families (68 people) lost everything.
The fire roared through wooden and concrete buildings on Pescador Drive and Buccaneer Street as the San Pedro Fire Department and the ever-present bucket brigade frantically tried to get it under control. By 4AM, the fire was brought under control, but not after it had caused major damage. According to Deputy of the Belize Police Department Coastal Executive Unit Henry Jemott, upon receiving the call around 12:30AM, Police and Fire personnel arrived at the scene where they observed the rear part of El Dorado Store engulfed in fire. At about 8:30AM, the fire had passed, stopping just short of Graniel’s Dreamland. Police are calling it an act of arson.
Canned food drive at the San Pedro Lions Club, Belize starting Tuesday at 8AM.
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Specials and Events
Last night's TV news on Channel 7, Channel 5, LOVETV, PGTV, West Vision (Cayo) and CTV 3. Also with the most recent Open Your Eyes, Rise and Shine Morning Show, and the Dickie Bradley Specials
The San Pedro Sun
Relief efforts for fire victims underway
If you wish to donate clothing, footwear, toiletries, personal goods, canned goods, equipment, baby supplies, toys, and feminine products, you may drop off your donations to the following places: Lions Den, San Pedro Roman Catholic School, SPTC, Crazy Canucks, Palapa Bar, Rotary Club of Ambergris Caye, and The Sandbar. Maya Island Air, Caribbean Queen Shipping, and Tropic Air are also on board to help, and will be offering free cargo transport to those who wish to ship their donated items. Saga Humane Society is providing pet shelter, dog or cat food, toys, leashes, and collars. Victims may contact Eileen Jamiso at 600-7450 for more details.
The SPTC will be organizing a clean-up for the next three days. Those willing to volunteer should meet at The Sandbar at Boca del Rio at 7:30AM with gloves, masks, and any equipment (shovel, rake, wheel barrow, etc.) to speed up the process.
Over the course of the clean-up, the SPTC will be hosting meals for the fire victims, and volunteer workers at the Town Hall Conference Room. Those affected can stop by during breakfast, lunch hours, and at 8PM. So far, Elvi’s Kitchen, Rojo Bar and Lounge, The Sandbar, Blue Water Grill, El Popular of Orange Walk, and Ramon’s Village has provided food relief assistance. The SPTC advises that anyone who is interesting in donating food to drop off warm meals at the conference room.
Aftermath of Fire on Pescador Drive
Donations are desperately needed, as entire families are now homeless and will have to start all over. Items needed include practical clothing and canned food, household items, towels, pots, pans, silverware, sheets, pillows, toys, toiletries (including sanitary items), toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.
UPDATE: Baby items are desperately needed as well: wipes, diapers, formula, etc. As people have no way to cook, instant meals such as cereals and milk are much appreciated.
San Pedro Magistrate explains court proceedings
With the escalating crime rates across Ambergris Caye, residents frequently question the effectiveness of the San Pedro Police Department. On many occasions, a person known to have been charged for a crime is seen out on the streets shortly after their arrest. This has led to community frustration, with residents claiming that the local police are not doing their job. Seeking to clarify the situation, The San Pedro Sun sought answers from the local island authorities.
The fact is that the release of persons charged is not a decision made by police officers, but by the Magistrate stationed in San Pedro Town.
In an interview with current San Pedro Town Magistrate, Janelle Villanueva, the functions of the court and why certain decisions are made was explained. According to her, the main function of the court is to administrate justice in the local judiciary system. She stated that when persons are issued an arrest warrant and brought in for trial, they are entitled to bail by law, as long as the felony is not murder, possession of fire arms or drug trafficking in large quantities. “It is in the constitution of the country that every person has a right for bail, as long as they meet certain conditions. Bail is a form of assurance that the person in question will be present for his/her trial and not flee,” she said. While this is the case for bail, there have been incidents whereby people breach their bail conditions.
Run away to John’s Escape!
Just a quick turn off the main road 4.5 miles north of San Pedro Town, to where golf carts once traversed, is a hideaway that is so tranquil and beautiful, you just want to sit and enjoy. That is what we did one fine Saturday, as we took the purple lovebug (aka, the company golf cart) out for a fun afternoon of exploration. Our location for Zen and conversation? John’s Escape! Former home of he-who-must-not-be-named, the brightly colored buildings and expansive beach views offer a relaxing atmosphere after a bit of a hot and dusty drive up. The roads are fantastic and wider, making for smooth driving, but not paved so the dust in these hot months had us thirsting for refreshment. Bartender Cookie was happy to greet us with two ice cold Belikins, and we collapsed under a palapa on the beach, sipping and refreshing ourselves.
Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. Awards Exceptional Youth
Over the weekend Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation and Area Representative of Belize Rural South, took time to award three outstanding youth of Belize with scholarships.
Rachel Alamilla of San Pedro Roman Catholic School and Rafael Marin of Caye Caulker RC School were the top-scoring students for their school in Belize’s the Primary School Examination (PSE). Rachel scored an average of 94.3 and Rafael scored 79.9. For their top performance in their respective schools, Hon. Heredia granted both students a $500 book scholarship.
Considered a Belizean Hero for his great work towards raising funds for the Belize Council for the Visual Impaired, vRowan Garel was granted a $10,000 scholarship by Hon. Heredia as he furthers his education in the United States at Drew University. Visually impaired himself, Rowan takes on the challenge of living on his own a the university expanding on his eco-location training.
Massive Downtown Fire Almost Destroys Entire Block in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
Sunrise brought to light the vast destruction that an early morning fire caused in the heart of downtown San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize, on Monday, June 27, 2016. The fire started shortly after midnight and spread though homes, businesses, storage rooms and apartment complexes, almost wiping out an entire block.
The fire is said to have started in a small structure in the center of the town block and quickly spread to buildings on the left side of Pescador Drive (Middle Street). The destruction starts from Lino’s Meat Shop and upstairs residence on the corner of Buccaneer St. and extends down the street all the way to Graniel’s Dreamland display room and upstairs residence.
The fire department was reported to have arrived early at the scene, but that it took the firemen some time to set up their equipment and start battling the fire. It was with the assistance of a bucket brigade of over 1,000 volunteers that the fire department was able to control the fire. A line of volunteers stretched from the seafront at Estel’s diner all the way to the lagoon side of the Sunset Boardwalk in a well-organized bucket brigade that managed to salvage Lino’s Meat Shop and upstairs residence.
Ambergris Caye’s Massive Efforts to Assist 88 Fire Victims and Cleanup Downtown Disaster Area
As the community of Ambergris Caye rapidly pushes humanitarian efforts to effectively assist the fire victims of this morning’s tragedy and ensure that they are fed, clothed and sheltered, the San Pedro Town Council pushed forward a massive cleanup campaign of the devastated downtown area and the San Pedro Police Department looks into making an arrest of an individual suspected to be the arsonist responsible for the fire.
Henry Jemmott, Assistant Superintendent/Deputy CEO of Police in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, stated that his department is conducting an internal criminal investigation separate from the San Pedro Fire Department’s investigations. They are looking at arson as to the cause of the fire.
Just a few hours after the massive and disastrous fire that raved through downtown San Pedro, the Lions Club, Leos Club and the San Pedro Food Bank were first to organize a collecting station for non-perishable food, clothing and personal items for the fire victims. Clothing, toys for children and even diapers have been made available to them, but now donations of towels, pillow, bed sheets and personal hygiene items are being asked for by the Lions Club/Food Bank.
Big Support for San Pedro Saga Humane Society
San Pedro Mayor Daniel Guerrero reiterated the Town Council’s full support of the services provided by the Saga Humane Society on the island by presenting the non-profit organization with a newly purchased Carry All vehicle on Saturday, June 24, 2016.
Mayor Guerrero promised that the Town Council will not continue the inhumane practice of dog eradication by poisoning as long as Saga Humane Society continues its work in controlling the number of stray dogs in the community. The donation of the Carry All is to assist Saga in their daily operations. The Town Council will pay for the yearly licensing of the vehicle and is looking into providing the serviced of a town dog catcher who will also be of great assistance to the community.
It was also announced that Minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr. committed to assist in the payment of two month's rent for Saga’s office and has acquired two properties for the organization in north Ambergris Caye.
Misc Belizean Sources
BTIA-Cayo Chapter Unites to Reel In the BTB
Approximately 45 accommodation owners in the Cayo District met on Thursday June 23, 2016 at the Welcome Center in San Ignacio, Cayo to discuss new Minimum Standards for Accommodations proposed by the Belize Tourism Board (BTB). The Cayo Chapter of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) a trade organization for local tourist market stakeholders, sponsored the event. PHOTOS
A broad cross section of stakeholders, including many from off-grid jungle lodges, attended the meeting. The large turnout was attributed to the widespread opposition to the BTB’s proposed legislative changes to existing laws governing the industry. Changes that members unanimously feel would have an adverse ripple affect throughout the industry.
Judy duPlooy, President of the BTIA-Cayo Chapter stated, “No one is opposed to regulations pertaining to health, safety and emergency measures. However, the new proposed Minimum Standards which total 532 items (for the hotel category) far exceed reasonable requirements for an extremely diverse marketplace. Furthermore, many of the items on the checklist are not relevant criteria for renewing or obtaining a license”.
“BTB has not yet looked at the cost of implementing the proposed Minimum Standards, the implication for competitiveness of the sector and more broadly the economy of Belize” commented Dr. Ydahlia Metzgen, a BTIA-Cayo Board member. She went on to say, “The impact of the current proposed Minimum Standards not only will be felt by the hotel owners but also by their employees, tour operators and all businesses touched by the tourism industry, the #1 employer in Belize. The broader consequences of the standards should be examined”.
Chiquibul Outreach Campaign Finishes
The Friends for Conservation and Development have finished their Chiquibul Forest Outreach Campaign. Over 6000 students were reached. Thanks, FCD and PACT! Protect the Chiquibul!
"The Beauty of the Chiquibul Forest Outreach Campaign has reached its project end. A total of 28 communities, 44 schools, 250 teachers and 6,246 students benefited from the educational presentation throughout the Cayo District. FCD is grateful to PACT, Principals, teachers, students and the Ministry of Education for their support."
Block Burner On San Pedro Leaves 88 Homeless
Tonight, 88 people are homeless, and there is major loss of property as San Pedro town tries to recover from a massive fire that devoured part of a downtown block in Belize's tourism capital.
Tonight, we'll have the story from the island plus the answers from the fire chief and the police.
We start with the basic narrative. This morning at12:45, The San Pedro Fire department received a report of a fire on Pescador Drive, which is in the heart of the town. By the time it was done four hours later, 11 buildings had burnt and 6 were partially damaged.
Why Only One Fire Truck And Two Firemen?
And so while that is the fire and the aftermath, what about the firefight? Did the Fire Department fail to contain the fire effectively?
There was only one fire truck working and only two fire men on duty. When they arrived at the scene, they found an unoccupied two storey wooden structure on fire. The bad part was that it was surrounded by other wooden buildings - which was a recipe for the disaster that unfolded. The fire truck quickly expended the 300 gallons of water it had in the tank, and then had to activate mobile pumps to source water from the sea. That's more than 15 minutes down time - which is when the fire quickly spread. We spoke to the Fire chief today about what went wrong, and what was unavoidable:..
Another City Slaying, Cops Say Not Gang Related, Streets Say Otherwise
There was another murder on the southside of Belize City close to midnight on Friday. 38 year old Anthony Gillett was shot in the head, allegedly by 30 year old Ryan Bennett who he had been socializing with inside a yard on west Collet Canal. The two were in Gillett's yard hanging out when suddenly things turned, and Gillett was shot to the top of his head. He survived - but died a few hours later at the KHMH. The Southside commander told the media more on Saturday:
ACP Chester Williams- O. C., Eastern South Division:
"Upon arrival there, they met one, Anthony Gillett, who at the time was suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. He was subsequently transported to the KHMH where he was admitted and subsequently he died shortly thereafter or upon arrival at the hospital."
Cops With Capes? Police Played Hero And Saved Drowning Child
Often times on the news, there's an onslaught of bad news about policemen and women - variously accused of abusing their power, or engaging in criminal activities. And while there are more than a few bad eggs in the department of over two thousand men and women, most cops are genuinely just doing their jobs trying to preserve the peace. And, in most cases, they get no recognition for it. Well, tonight, we can say that's starting to change, because a trio of officers from the north side strike team who saved a child from drowning on Friday were recognized by the commissioner for their valiant conduct. At about 10:35, police learned about an 11 year old child who'd gone under water at the pier on Marine Parade and they sprung into action. Sgt. Anibal Castellanos who supervises the team explained:..
COMPOL Congratulates Courageous Cops
And another set of cops show showed extraordinary bravery last week also received a commendation today. They're the ones who chased down the 15 year old shooter that tried to kill a man in front of the Eastern Division police station. Corporal Alrick Arnold took a bullet to the chest, while Detective Corporal Brian Miller, Coporal Joel Grinage and PC Criston Moore all teamed up to apprehend the youth. Today, they received their commendation at the police station while the top Brass of the Police Department went all the way to Corporal Arnold's home to tell him how much they appreciated his work:...
Did Cops Endanger Public With Urbie
And while those are the good cops - the bad cop of the moment is Detective Constable Urbie Alamilla. He was remanded to prison last week after he was charged with discharging a firearm in public. Turns out, it was the second time in two weekends that he did the same thing, except the first time - even though he was visibly drunk and disorderly - his bother police officers brought no criminal charge. And then when it happened again the following weekend, only then were they quick to charge. Today when we asked the commissioner about the prudence of that decision - he said there is practical metric in a disciplinary charge:..
Santa Cruz 13 Get Free!
Exactly a year ago, we showed you when the Punta Gorda Police Department hauled 13 Mayans from San Cruz into the Magistrate's Court on charges of unlawful detention. That's because they tied up and detained Creole Belizean Rupert Myles because they say that he built his house on the sacred Ux Benka Maya Site.
Well today, after months of attending court adjournments on the criminal charge, the Santa Cruz 13, now Santa Cruz 11 turned up for their adjournment. To their surprise, This morning the Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued the charges against all remaining 11 defendants setting them free. It's a welcomed end for the case, and in a press release today, the Maya Leaders Alliance said that they congratulate the Director of Public Prosecutions for acknowledging, quote, "the 13 accused who, along with their families, suffered in-calculable hardships as a result of their arrest and prosecution." End Quote.
Soldier Found Dead In PG
In other news from Punta Gorda, there was a murder in that southern town this weekend. On Sunday at 9:30 a dead body was found on the seashore on Front Street. It had been there a while, and an area resident only became aware of it when vultures started circling. Police confirmed the identity to be 27 year old BDF soldier Orlando Rash from San Felipe Village. His body was face down, nude and in an advanced state of decomposition. A postmortem conducted on site certified the cause of death as facial blunt force traumatic injuries with ligature around the neck.
Chopping Victims In Critical Condition, Deranged Man Arraigned
Tonight, two of six persons who were seriously injured in a chopping incident last week are just barely clinging to life. 29 year old Adela Choc was chopped to her face and sustained an amputated thump, while her son 13 year old Danny Choc, who sustained injuries to the back of his head, are both at the KHMH in a critical condition. The 13 year old is reported to be on life support. The other victims were released from the Northern Regional Hospital after receiving treatment. The horror began unfolding on Friday at midday, when a man known for his history of mental breakdowns went on an all-out chopping spree. The incident has left the community of Yo Creek Village quite shaken. But just what motivated one man to commit such an atrocity? Emanuel Pech travelled north today to find out.
The relative peace and tranquility of Yo Creek Village was shattered when a man wielding a machete hacked two families close to the point of death.
Today that man, 35 year old Larry Banner was remanded to prison after being arraigned for charges related to aggravated burglary and maim.
A crowd of villagers gathered in front of court today to witness his arraignment- as if to make sure he is locked up.
PUP Challenge Working Its Way Thru Court
It's been a month since the Barrow Government has ended the controversial 30-day ban on the Sarstoon River. But, Opposition Leader John Briceño remains convinced that the Government wrongly used its executive powers to block Belizeans from entering a part of their territory.
Today, the lawsuit he brought against the Government went back before the Chief Justice for a very brief hearing today as part of it's continuation through the court process. Today, when his attorney exited court, we asked him what's next for the case that appears moot. Here's what he told us:
Godfrey Smith, Temp, Attorney for Claimant:
"This morning they asked for some more time because his Excellency, the Governor General who is supposed to make the affidavit in response, was not in the jurisdiction. So they've been given until next week Monday to file that affidavit. After that, one week later on the 11th of July will be the first hearing where the time tabling and scheduling exercise will be done. So it's still at the preliminary stages."
Why Did Police Search Ahmads
It made major news last week when police special branch searched six homes and rounded up an entire Muslim family. The Ahmad's are well known in Belize and the fact that the entire family was arrested for no clear reason suggested that they may have been detained because they are Muslims. With the long shadow of the US Intelligence apparatus, and the shadowy involvement of the Special Branch, which is Belize's spy agency - it raised eye brows. Today police gave answers:
Marco Vidal, Special Branch Commander:
"For the past several months special branch has been engaged in an investigation concerning information which we consider to be of a serious nature. I am not in a position to divulge the nature of that information, neither can I provide details of the investigation. But you may be aware that on Monday the 20th of June we conducted searches at the residents' of the Acpad family and other persons. Items were taken from the search and these items are being returned to the owners as we speak. Certain allegations have been made in relation to the operation at the manner of which the searches were done. We can categorically state that the operation satisfied us and we are satisfied that in fact the operation was done within the confines of the law and in a professional manner."
Muslim Woman Charged
One charge has been brought against a Muslim. Fifty-five year old Filipino national Eloisa Mujahil, who is of the Muslim faith, pled guilty to a charge of failure to comply with the conditions of her visitors permit when she appeared today before Magistrate Deborah Rogers. She was fined $1,200 and she was given until December 31 to pay. If she defaults on payment she will serve 6 months. Mujahil arrived in Belize on December 9, 2006 and she was given a permit to remain in Belize until October 4, 2009. Her attorney, Douglas Carr, explained that it was only a matter of circumstance that she was charged because she has been living in Belize with her 2 sons at 102 Amara Avenue and it was only when the police came to her home it was discovered that she had not complied with the conditions of her permit. Carr said her husband, who was looking after the immigration matter had passed away in 2014 and the attorney who was hired to do the work did not do so. The immigration officer who represented the Immigration Department told the court that the Immigration Department is not requesting deportation.