Newspaper Headlines from the Hattie era, rebuilding and reconstruction, from The Belize Billboard. Right click on an image to open in a new window, then zoom in for larger versions. March 15, 1962, also check the price of newspaper during that time period.
Devastating Hurricane Hattie 31 October 1961 from my Father's album, St. George's Caye and Belize City. The aftermath, the destruction, the loss! The fight to rebuild, and they did! Debbie Gegg
The beginning of the split
For most who could afford , the rebuilding process after hurricane Hattie was more inclined to ferro concrete buildings.A lot of the wonderful colonial style houses were wiped away. Others say that didn't start until the late 1960s early 1970s with development in Kings Park (following the construction of Princess Margaret Dr.). The colonial houses of the more affluent residents of the city in the Southern Foreshore and Fort George areas were rebuilt after the hurricane.
You can just see the Gann's clock tower behind the house on the left of the picture. These old homes were very well constructed. Most were built by shiprights, from Louisiana pine and used mortis and tennon method. Those homes were very strong and actually creaked liked a ship in strong winds. All joints and beams were pinned together with wooden pegs.
My grandparents house which was just down the road on Eve St. from the Grants and on the water was totally gone. Completely washed away. Same approximate size as the the Grants. My mom recalls when they were finally able to get back to the house there was nothing but mud where the house stood and the brick pilings/piers it sat on. They think the house was not secured to them so when the tidal wave came in it lifted up and smashed it across the street. Lesley Sullivan
THE CHETUMAL CONTINGENT TO BELIZE AFTER HURRICANE HATTIE by Albert Paul Avila
How many remember the story of the Mexican Relief Plane that crashed in the Chan Pine Ridge in 1961 and was never found ...until some 40 years later? There is a monument in Chetumal cemetery with the names of those who perished.
Soon after hurricane Hattie struck Belize, a seven person contingent comprised of a priest (The priest was José Fuentes Castellanos, brother of Mrs. Libia Fuentes, wife of Mr. Jorge Marzuca Ferreiro, he was of Campeche origin), two doctors, two lieutenants, a professor, and a first sergeant aviation mechanic were dispatch from Chetumal to provide relief to the people of Belize. The flight never arrived and for eight years no one knew what happened to the flight. It was assumed it had crashed. The wreckage was discovered by a farmer on April 3, 1969, with the bodies still inside the plane. The location of a crash is by the area near the village of Maskall. At the time of the crash the area was high jungle. I was told that the crash was about half mile from the main road there, the old Belize Corozal road.
These Mexicans and their families gave the ultimate sacrifice for us Belizeans when we were in need. It made me remember how I got a little emotional looking at a YouTube remembrance service in the Netherlands on behalf of Belizean WWII Aviator Cassian Waight who lost his life when his RAF D-267 bombing flight was shot down over a small town In that country. Cassian Waight’s body was found in a meadow and buried nearby and thus the remembrance service on his behalf (every year for 80 years). The purpose of this story is to show how great full the Dutch people who found his body were of Cassian. They realized he and his family had made the ultimate sacrifice in a war that he had nothing to do with and his death had contributed to the liberty they are enjoying today. They also realized that they should never forget that sacrifice and they haven’t.
We as Belizeans should learn a little from the Dutch and honour our foreign born patriots who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us. I understand that a plaque was placed in Corozal (It is a pity that in the 1990's the plaque was destroyed), but we should have something permanently enshrined in Belize City where the devastation was the greatest and their ultimate destination.
The Belize National Historical Society and our members recommend that we posthumously conduct a rememberance service for these patriots with their family in attendance and a plaque/ shrine be placed somewhere near the Mexican Institute on the promenade by the sea. Let us not forget! It is never too late!
These were the heroes who did their best to help a troubled Belize 1- Lieutenant of the Frigate JUAN JOSÉ MARTINEZ 2- Sub Lieutenant GILBERTO HERNANDEZ VEGA 3- Master Sergeant Mechanical Aviation JOSÉ MAGAÑA SANCHEZ 4- Chaplain JOSÉ FUENTES CASTELLANOS 5- Doctor RAMÓN MENDOZA VEGA 6- Doctor ENRIQUE PAREDES AGUILA 7- Professor JOSE SEVILLA SERDÁN
The Cassian Waight Memorial Service as an example below.
In 1965 during the inauguration of the Corozal Town Central Park, Felipe Santiago Ricalde laid a plaque/stone in the water fountain with the names of the medical brigade members who perished in that crash. Ricalde was very much involved with Hurricane Hattie relief efforts in collaboration with the Mexican Government and was to be on the ill fated flight itself. The plaque laid there for many years. The fountain, a gift from Mexico, was originally destined for Belize City in 1961 but never made it because of Hurricane Hattie. You can see it in the photo.
From the information I have this contingent came from Mexico City. My grandfather Santiago was to take the flight with the but due to a family emergency he was unable to go to Chetumal.
If you take a look behind my grandfather is the fountain and the plaque.
This photo was when the former Mexican President Adolfo Lopez Mateos visited Corozal after the inauguration of the Amity Bridge. Elisa Ysaguirre Ricalde
Internally, when a natural disaster devastates a region of a country, disaster relief comes from other parts of that country. This is often accompanied by an international relief effort . Most often, this effort is dominated by one or two countries, based on factors such as the historical relationship between two countries and the role certain countries play in a region (sphere of influence). The effort often increases foreign influences in the devastated country. The nature of the relief effort might also lead to social change, especially when people from the outside who come to help interact with locals in the devastated area. Based on such interactions, the kind of technology that they bring as part of the rescue and recovery and rebuilding effort might also contribute to change. Lastly, change can occur based on the kind of assistance given by a foreign country, whether that assistance is in the form of economic and/or technical assistance or certain policies.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Hattie, British Honduras received significant news coverage from around the world. Many countries helped in the relief effort and organizations such as Care and the Red Cross were part of the relief effort. “Aid Pours In,” is the title of one section of Friesen’s book on the hurricane. Taken from local news clippings, this section of the book noted that in crucial weeks after the hurricane relief aid came in the form of personnel, medical supplies, food, and funds from over the world. He further documented the kinds of assistance and aid the country received. In addition to Britain and commonwealth countries Mexico, Guatemala and other neighboring Central American countries assisted in the relief effort. (Other countries also assisted to the relief effort.) With Guatemala pressing its territorial claim to Belize, and even threatening military action, there was concern expressed in certain sectors of British Honduran society about aid and assistance offered by that country that included relief supplies and even helicopters. In turn, there were questions about whether British Honduras should have accepted Guatemalan help.
However, other than Britain, the bulk of international aid and assistance came from the United States. This reflected that country’s super power status and Latin America and the Caribbean being in its sphere of influence. With vast resources the U.S. launched a major relief effort that came by sea and air. When I interviewed Belizeans for my dissertation on Belizean in Los Angeles, several remembered this American assistance. One remembered the arrival of the Americans as part of the relief effort, and one of the things he remembered most about their arrival was helicopters flying over the city. This was the first time he had seen such a thing he recalled. Helicopters from the U.S. Navy also landed in Sittee River, and this was the first time helicopters had landed in the village. Ships from the U.S. Navy were also dispatched to British Honduras with assistance and relief supplies, and one resident of San Pedro remembered the British Army and an American supply ship providing Ambergris Caye with more supplies. The U.S. government was also generous in cash aid.
Hurricane Hattie didn’t have much of an impact on internal migration, but it did have a significant impact on international migration. As part of its significant relief effort, the U.S. government granted some Belizeans from the impacted areas visitors visas. The interviewee who had seen the American helicopters over Belize City remembered that after the hurricane an announcement was made over the radio that Belizeans who had relatives in the United States could go to that country temporarily as “refugees” to recover from the hurricane. Many Belizeans took advantage and saw it as an opportunity to emigrate to the United States.
Santiago Ricalde, the PUP representative for Corozal, requested assistance from the Mexican government in the neighboring Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Regrettably, the first Mexican plane with relief supplies and medical personnel crashed in northern Belize.
This 4th episode of the Belize Kolcha TV Series called Hurricanes, features personal accounts by some survivors of Hurricane Hattie.
Plotting the destructive path of Hurricane Hattie at weather forecasting station. Belize City 1961. In 1961 The National Hurricane Center in Miami was using radar and hurricane hunter aircraft to track hurricanes.
Police guarding Marketing Board from Looters
There was widespread looting after Hattie. The Santiago Castillo warehouse was looted, and Harley's.The Red Cross gave us food rations, and the British troops patrolled the streets of the city during curfew. If you were caught for curfew it was a $5 and and they were taken to Queen Street police station.
The looting in downtown Belize City contrasted with the orderly line for food rations on North Front Street, outside of the Marketing Board (from one of the iconic pictures of the aftermath of he hurricane). The looting led to the British governor calling a state of emergency, and it was stopped when one of the looters was shot by a British soldier around Albert and Bishop Street.
The young man with the loud speaker ( in the middle of the photo) in his hand is CH Godden the Assistant Colonial Secretary. He wrote his memoirs in the book "Trespassers Forgiven: Memoirs of Imperial Service in an Age of Independence". In the book Godden dedicated an entire chapter about Hattie. It was in his book that I heard about the experience his boss the Colonial Secretary had with a Casandra in Jamaica in 1961. As the story goes, the Cassandra told the Colonial Secretary that a terrible hurricane was going to hit Belize that year and that was what prompted the Colonial Secretary to prepare for a hurricane by repairing the hurricane shelters countrywide. In the photo the Marketing Board was filled with sacks of rice and the people were looting it, but they were trying to stop the people from taking the rice. As it turned out, Godden convinced the Administration to let the people take the rice because it had gotten wet and wet rice would only last so long. Plus they needed to remove the rice anyway. So with that the people got the rice.
Colin Gillett: My dad said he was police training school at the time of Hurricane Hattie and Belize City was under martial law then. As a police recruit he had to patrol the city as looting was rampart so couple looters were shot at by the soldier as regular police then had just a club and whistle.
Remnants of Hurricane Hattie: This riverfront aerial scene of hurricane-stricken Belize is reminiscent of Europe's bombed out cities of World War II, haredly a rood is intact, large rain collecting barrels are ?? and autos are scattered where left by raging flood waters
The large building is one third of Eden Cinema. There were over 50 people sheltered there and when the roof started flying off, everyone crammed into the projector room. The piece standing is concrete and housed the projector room, bathrooms and the balcony with reserved seats.
The building is situated North Northwest to South Southeast. It seems depending when that part of the building got destroyed in relation to where the hurricane was at the time the people sheltering in the reserve area would have gotten sheltered. In the early stages of Hattie, I believe the winds were coming from the North to Northeast. As the eye gradually passed us, the winds would have gradually turned to the South Southeast then South, at which point the people in the reserve area would have been sheltered as the winds were coming from the Government House direction. I am not sure how large the projector room was, but once the eye had passed what remained of the building would have sheltered anyone in the reserved area since the wind was coming from the closed up area snd not the open area. What broke up these buildings was not only the winds, but the projectiles flying at 150 to 200 miles an hour crashing into buildings.
The two large buildings to the right are Pickwick Club and my grandparents building that housed the Tropical Lemonade bottling works, Belize Trading Company and my grandparents residence near the river. I see the Royal Bank of Canada by the market. Scot's Kirk is gone! Brodies is in the back, the Supreme Court etc.
Woman sitting amid remains of Her house in Belize City which was battered by Hurricane Hattie October 1961
Albert Street, the first building on the right is the Chevannes building, Maya Store on left. The BATA store sign indicates the photographer was standing st the Prince St intersection, looking down Albert St to swing bridge. Old Ideal Shopping Centre on your left.
THE REBUILDING AND BUILDING OF A COUNTRY IN CHAOS by Hector Silva
In 1961, after Hurricane Hattie devastated Belize, two doors were opened to us. - - Rebuild to Build, or just move out of Belize City and restart some where else. - WE CHOSE To stay and rebuild, so as to Build a new Independent Nation in Central america.
May I first give you all a Birds Eye View of what was before us, just recently elected on March 2nd 1961. - ( SEVEN MONTHS OLD. )
LET me first give you a bird's eye view, of what Belize City was, and the rest of the country.
Belize City was practically FLATTENED. 80 %or thousands of houses demolished. Many others damaged. There was no Electricity, Water or telephone. FOOD VERY SCARCE, and Medical Services limited.
Many dead, many injured and many Traumatized and shocked due to their complete losses.
Our industries like Citrus, Chicle bleeding and Mahogany extraction were totally paralized and eventually destroyed. - Milpas and crops were washed away. - Other means of livelihood came to a halt.
Our roads, bridges and our sea lanes were interrupted by blockage. Immediately Shelters had to be constructed like Hattie Ville, George Town Silk Grass and in many other areas.
Government Buildings all over the country were damaged or had to be cleaned and sanitized.
THEN, the building of Belmopan became more urgent, and the providing of Electricity, Water and telephone became a necessity.
As an added necessity, we had to regenerate our International Airport to accommodate Jet Services. - And to build the Tower Hill Bridge, - which was greatly need to boost TRADE with Mexico and to serve the Sugar Industry.
SO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT WE DID TO RACKLE THIS GIANT OF A PROGRAMME ?
.1 - WE immediately instituted, a Small Farmers Loan programme and guided by Farm Demonstrators. - - We opened the Marketting Board to serve as the Customary Services.- then the large Industries were offered A DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVE PROGRAMME, or a Tax Holiday on importation of needs to build. - -These Incentives were also also offered to Local Hoteliers, who had a desire to provide
accomodations for the begining of Tourism Local and Foreign. )..-
The Mennonites were alrady established and were an asset in the building of Hurricane Shelters. and providing for the birth of the GREEN REVOLUTION.
Government established two Quasi Government Institutions, - - - THE RECONSTRUCTION and DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION and THE DEVELOPMENT FINANCE CORPORATION.
With all the above WE MADE.
This was after Hattie during martial law. North Front Street in front of the law offices of Musa & Balderamos (the men are gathered in front of Spoonaz. This was exactly where the Eyles Brothers, Robby and Charlie, had the Caterpillar Agency on North Front Street, across from the Palace Hotel. The weapon is the SLR uk version of the FN in the then new NATO calibre of 7.62mm x 51 that was adopted in 1952. Again we see evidence of Quartro Aguas Roof fairing off much better than the other types of roofs.
Racecourse St. after Hurricane Hattie. Right off Vernon on the right hand by the bridge Look good you can see remains of the Brooklyn Bridge that separated Racecourse and East Collet Canal. That large wooden house on the right is old Mr Cain's house and left of it was Mr Hyde's, a bartender at Fort George. The concrete building in front is still there.
Another comment: That's on Mex Avenue, the big house on the left was corner of Mex avenue and Amara, known as Cucunal yard (sp?). There was a water pipe on the street side in front.
FR Robert Mc Cormack SJ showing him and then Premier George Price surveying damages done by Hurricane Hattie to the Stann creek district in 1961.
Hurricane Hattie Weather Advisory: Oct 30, 1961 National Weather Bureau, Miami Hurricane Center
The aftermath of Hattie Hurricane in Belize city in 1961. This is at Albert street and Prince st, the building to your right side the the home of the Chavannes family.
A view from the building housing the U.S. International Cooperation Administration Mission (old name for A.I.D.), sheltering from Hurricane Hattie in 1961. The wind and the sea have been dropping—the wind for a few hours, the sea for several.
Glen Fuller Salvaging and washing what can be found. It was a Horrific day after.
Hattie destruction in Belize City. I think this is at the corner of Freetown Road and Mapp St. The building at the far left reminds me of one that was in the Belize Technical College yard.
Diane Matthews Very traumatic for me. I was nearly 5 years old. My family rode out the storm in the Estephan Building in Belize City. When the storm hit, the plate glass on the third floor where we were located burst with glass flying everywhere. We relocated to the second floor but the water rose to a foot above that floor so we sheltered in a mess. After the storm, we all plodded through feet of mud to the Holden Hospital for vaccinations.
Lareth Gregory I was 41/2 yrs old, my baby brother was 1 yr old. My mom and the 2 of us was on the 2nd floor of a bank on Albert street and my dad was in Mullin River, we didn’t know if he was alive until a week later. I remember my mom picking up a silver tea pot that floated out of Brodie’s I think . There was water about an inch on my feet and my mom was on a table with my brother.
Daisy Cacho My mom was only 5yrs old and she still remember it very well all when the breeze start to when the house collapse and her older brother had to put her into the ceiling and tie her so she wouldn't wash from the currant and the she talks about the aftermath,about the bodies she seen on the ground of her neighbors that didn't make it.
Pamela Robateau Crone My mom always told me that she waited for my dad to come back from Sergeant's Caye, where the SCA nuns were stranded and thought that it was just a storm and he would have had time to be back with us., after brining them in. Well he is another story. But when Hattie hit, the house fell off its posts. The kitchen migrated into the neighbor's yard as they had a bridge from the kitchen to the house in those days. My mom, and my older brother, scrambled unto the refrigerator, when they saw the rising water and then through the opening to the attic, where through one of the attic window they had to have a swimmer tie a rope from Mr. Meighan house to ours. Mr. Meighan lived up stairs and the Smiley's lived down stairs. At the time they were sheltering up stairs. I am not sure who was the swimmer, maybe someone can spread some light on this. (The reverend Mrs. Smiley). Anyway. My brother went over on the rope and then they tied me in a bundle and tried to get me over to the neighbors house. I was dipped about three times in the cold water. My mom later came over, as they were trying to revive me, as I was still and purple in colour. After a while I cried and they knew I would be Ok. Baby clothes were loaned to keep me dry, courtesy of Mrs. L. Smiling as her baby boy David was only a couple months old too.. Not sure of his birthday.. My dad was stuck out at caye... another story soon..on this one..Its written in one of Ms. Zee Edgel's books I think. .
Yvonne N. Sabido I was going to be 11, on Nov.19 of 1961. I don’t remember that birthday at all. The day of the hurricane I got my first bicycle and was going to ride it when a car pulled in front of our house on E. Canal. Daddy shouted get in the car. But daddy, I have to ride my bike. Get in now. With only our shoes and clothes, my brother, sister and I got in the car and was whisked away to a farm owned by the Nords, in Orange Walk. Aunt Alice was there at her estate and welcomed what seems like five families and 20 cousins. We watched oranges in the groves flying sideways and cows tipping over. We had no idea what was going on in Belize. It was a month before the water subsided, the bridge was passable and my dad could go to Belize to assess the damage. He was crushed, our spirits were crushed when he returned and told us our house had fallen over and where uncles house once stood at St. George’s Caye was now a split. Our lives spared. I read the names of each individual who perished. I did not know them, but after all these years I still feel the pain and shed tears because of their peril and my memory of the devastation. The very news of hurricane approaching, terrifies me and I go into panic mode.
France Sol: "When Hurricane Hattie hit Belize we had to eat corn beef almost daily. I was in my third pregnancy with high blood pressure etc. I decided to do laundry for the British soldiers in exchange for fresh cooked food. They came at first with six uniforms but then it became 12. It was done in a bath pan and a scrub board and had to get water from the pipe. It was difficult but I was treated to the best food that my children and I and my sister enjoyed. I washed for them for 3 months. Then I had my little girl and could no longer do the job. Six months after I heard a knock on my door - it was a British officer who came with check in hand to pay me. I refused the money and told him the delicious food I got after washing their clothes and all the cakes and chocolates given to my children was enough. I refused the money much to my husband’s disapproval when I told him what I did that day. To say the least the officer was also surprised. It was three meals per day and although it was hard work I Was very happy Not standing in a long line for corn beef."
MEASURES TAKEN TO TACKLE A CRISES OF MAJOR PROPORTION , in 1961. by Hector Silva
AND AFTER TACKLING THE HURRICANE DAMAGES and THE CREATION OF SHELTERS FOR THE HOMELESS, and the building of the NEW CAPITAL BELMOPAN, which created hundreds of jobs, - . it was time to make Belize, INVESTOR FRIENDLY and the creation of jobs in the housing industry...
TWO VEHICLES WERE CREATED TO DO THE JOB OF NATION BUILDING..
One was RECONDEV, - - - -" Reconstruction and Development Corporation. " - - -To reconstruct Belize and to establish the
" DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVES LAWS. "
The other was the "D.F.C. " Development Finance Corporation. " to establish a lending Institution for Development projects.
In the meanwhile, The George Price Administration also created two WATCH DOG BODIES to protect Belizeans from being taken advantage by UNSCRUPULOUS MERCHANTS.
1. - A WELL MANNED " CONSUMER PROTECTION AGENCY " was established to patrol the shops, inspecting expired goods and the SCALES that they are not doctored..
2. A PRICE CONTROL REGIME was established to regulate prices from ABUSE. - - Government listed 42 items with ZERO RATED PRICES. This was to control a Run Away COST OF LIVING.
These measures worked well, especially for the poor and working class.
THESE ARE JUST FEW TIPS ON HOW WE MANAGED TO CONTROL A DISASTER.
Court House Green or Battlefield Park today after Hurricane Hattie. In 1854, the first prison was located where Heritage Bank is today and that represented the "Lawless". The "lawly" was represented by the Court House which was on the opposite side.
Caption reads: A 1961 press photo Aerial view of Belize, British Honduras city devastated by Hurricane Hattie’s fierce winds, high tides and heavy rains yesterday. It was reported that 30,000 residents had been evacuated from the city which was virtually destroyed by the storm. “The sea invaded the town to depths of 9 to 10 feet,” a radio report said boats and planes are rushing aid to the city today.
Washing salvage clothes from Hattie at Lovers Point. November 1961.
Let us go back to Hurricane Hattie of 1961, ( Sixty years ago. )
Those of us who heard, that it was coming to Belize on that evening of October 29th 1961, at about 4.15 PM, from the trembling voice of BHBS Radio announcer, Mr Eustace Usher- Those of us who saw it coming, when flocks of birds flew in a Southerly direction. - and when Belize City residents formed a band with sounds of hammering nails. - - BUT more frightening when many people BID FAREWELL TO THEIR HOMES.
The description of the magnitude of this killer storm was. that it would begin battering Belize City about Mid Night with winds as high as 150 MPH and that it would bring high tides of up to 20 to 30 feet high.
For me it was time to move my family to higher lands, Cayo my Constituency as Mayor and newly elected Representative.
NOW MY IMMEDIATE ASSESMENT AFTER THE STORM PASSED WAS PHENOMENAL. Imagine the Macal River in San Ignacio running UP STREAM. - The flood almost touched the Hawkesworth Bridge and other rare events not to mention the vast inundation all around.
BUT THE LESSON LEARNED WAS don't play with a Hurricane. - Belize City lost its Heart Beat for a while and lost its Landscape. Some Islands like Sergeant Caye disappeared, other Islands wee split in by deep channels. - AND believe me or not, Belize City experience heavy TREMORS and TORNADOES. - The vegetation all around was SCORCHED with the friction of the strong winds.
IN FACT IN MY VISIT TO BARBADOES, we were briefed at the CARIBBEAN MET OFFICE on the irreparable damages which Hurricane Hattie may have caused to the Belize Landscape and which are still visible.
SO I KNOW WHAT IS A STRONG HURRICANE AND ITS AFTER EFFECTS, I heard it coming, I saw it coming and I felt it when it came.
George Price chatting three days after Hattie.
Hector Silva: In this picture, First Minister George Price was talking to the Honorable Fred Westby, Area Representative for the Albert Division, and Mayor of Belize City. This was right after Hurricane Hattie. ( Note - On March 2nd,1961, the PUP had won all 18 Constituencies. - Boss Fred won the Albert Division. (Note - George Price served as Belize's First Mayor 1958 to 1960.) They were discussing no doubt, the rehabilitation and reconstruction of aterrible destroyed Belize City. The two gentlemen on the right were Boss Fred City Foreman and the old man with the Felt Hat was a faithful PUP supporter who used to sell the Belize Times.