the islands of
Belize, Oct. 6th., 2000
The Emergency is at the crest of the wave. The GOB were out there
doing the best could be done the first 72 hours. People on the ground,
both in Caye Caulker and San Pedro have organized things. Home first,
extended families next and strangers also.
Today Friday, should find extra people coming in from a British
Caribbean Navy unit, and US helicopters are supposed to be arriving. BEL
the electric company, already have pole linesmen from Canada on the
Reports are that the first batches of relief supplies sailed through
customs with no red tape. They do have to be addressed to: SAN PEDRO
RELIEF SUPPLIES c/o Honourable Patty Arceo, Area Representative and San
Pedro Town Board Emergency Committee. In Caye Caulker, you have to
address them to: CAYE CAULKER RELIEF SUPPLIES c/o Honourable Patty
Arceo, Area Representative and Village Emergency Committee Chairman, Mr.
There is shipping out of Florida by HYDE SHIPPING. Send relief
supplies via them. There may be more ways. If I find out, will post
it. Hyde Shipping fills a container with mixed small shipments and goes
down twice a week, I am told. They ship out of Tampa is my understanding
and also have a collection point in Miami, where they fill containers and
then truck them to Tampa for the boat, or barge. Out of Houston, I don't
know. Will try to find out.
The critical period has settled down. Barring a rainy squall, people
can now manage. There is a steady supply of food relief boats coming
from government. My understanding is they are feeding Caye Caulker
people with rations of bananas, bread, flour, rice, sugar, and sending
rakes out to clean up seaweed and debris. BEL are on top of the
electrical situation and going as fast as can be expected. BTL the
telecommunications people did put a station out on San Pedro. They do
however want MONEY. As far as I am concerned, BTL's performance should
be condemned and if the PUP renew their monopoly or contract, it would be
a disgusting situation. There is no BTL presence on Caye Caulker that I
know of. Maybe today? The bank has not opened in either place yet that
I know of, but you can get a cold beer on San Pedro now. Because of the
electrical outage, a lot of food is spoiling in freezers and restaurants
on Caye Caulker are cooking the food and giving it away free. This will
soon run out.
Relief supplies are starting to flow in. Not big yet, but a few small
shipments have come in. Several small planes also brought the odd items
direct to the island of San Pedro. The Caye Caulker airstrip is open also
for business. My daughter Diane has had to go in on relief boats each day
to the mainland, to make phone calls and do things. These have been
charging her double the water taxi rate out of Caye Caulker. Not much
you can do with price gouging in an emergency, but the Caye Caulker Water
Taxi Association will be operational today as I write. Transport to the
mainland will get regular again through the weekend and into Monday.
There are a lot of homeless people on Caye Caulker and San Pedro.
Houses demolished. A good portion of these are common workers, who have
no insurance and were living on the back, buggy, west side of both
communities in small houses. These are the people need help more than
anything. I understand tents are coming with the British navy. How many
I don't know? About 290 people need housing on Caye Caulker, at San
Pedro, I have no figures.
Hopefully grocery stores on the islands will soon restock and reopen.
But it may take another four days for things to settle down and get
organized this far, probably not before next Tuesday or Wednesday. Lots
of emergency clean up work and patching of roofs to do first. People are
living off food stocks that were on hand and these are running out. The
GOB are bringing in something. This will probably be necessary through
next Monday. I would expect that by next week Tuesday, a sort of
"NORMAL" new commerce will be operational. There is a long grind ahead
of reconstruction, but the Emergency Rescue Phase is basically cresting
and nearly over. By end of next Monday into Tuesday next week and
through this weekend that should be pretty much over.
Longer term relief and reconstruction are more problematical. I think
things are going to go on in a rough fashion for another month. But
things should get a little smoother each day. The ones who lost
everything, the poor workers are the hardest hit. Isn't it always this
way? I would say keep relief supplies coming for another month. Canned
goods for sure, packaged foods would be helpful. You don't need a lot of
clothes on either island, so that probably is not a big item. It is the
I understand water plant engineers will be arriving today on San
Pedro. Caye Caulker has shallow well water. This may not handle the
high population though for very long. It is basically rain water
floating on the salt water table running through the island. You dig a
six foot well and make sure you only dip into the water about six
inches. So you get the fresh water floating on the top of the salt
water. The different density makes it float. However the amount is
limited, not enough for the current population levels of a small town. I
expect well water to turn brackish mixed with salt water by Monday. So
water is going to be a problem next week for Caye Caulker. Lack of
communications is still a big problem. BTL can restring land lines for
telephone, once BEL get new poles up in Caye Caulker, but that looks to
be two weeks, or maybe three weeks away. I'm not sure why they cannot
stick up a repeater antenna mobile unit for cellular phones? But
obviously BTL were not prepared with emergency hurricane disaster
equipment to give service in emergencies. This is going to have to be
rectified by the GOB. Competitors and volunteers are forbidden to
provide the service of communications by the monopoly. The problem is
POLITICAL not physical or financial.
The urgency is leveling off, by next Wednesday it should be pretty much
over and things will get into reconstruction routines for another month.
Injuries are the normal things found with barefeet living and debris
lying around, or cleaning debris. One guy lost part of his finger at
Chocolate's house when the hurricane force winds slammed the door on the
An old man's memory! When the British Navy arrived in Belize after
Hurricane Hattie in 1961, I had been traveling back and forth to Caye
Caulker for about 10 days ferrying supplies and getting tools. The port
of Belize City was covered in mud about three feet deep from a 15 ft.
ocean rise during the hurricane. I lost two pairs of shoes trying to
walk around, so ended up just going barefoot. You couldn't see the
broken glass in the deep mud. After a couple of weeks, things slowed
down enough that I stopped by the Baron Bliss Institute to get my sore
feet looked after. The Navy doctor doing the emergency work, took 36
pieces of glass out of my two feet. This illustration and memory shows
the type of injuries for first aid that will be experienced over the next
I suspect food is the biggest item needed now for relief supplies.
Merchants on the mainland probably have orders in for zinc roofing
supplies. This will be available for purchase I suspect within a month.
I understand the Mennonites also manufacture such sheeting for roofs.
Getting insurance cheques out promptly is also a big item. The sooner
the claims are settled the sooner the reconstruction boom can get
started. I know my four daughters of Caye Caulker are filing claims
now. They are anxious to get going, but need the money. They are broke
otherwise. This being the OffSEASON for tourism there is no weekly cash
flow and none of them fish lobster. Wendy's house is pretty much gone,
it is unsafe and needs to be demolished and rebuilt. It was being used
on lease by Tina and converted to a Bak Pak Hostel, so that income flow
is finished for Tina. With lobster traps scattered, it will be a lost
season for lobster pretty much for fishermen. The photos of wrecked
boats, look like they will be all repaired within two months or even
sooner. Now outboard motors are a different story. That situation may
be much rougher for the financially strapped and especially if their
motors are on time payments, they are going to be in big financial
That is the rundown and update as I see it.
by Ray Auxillou/Trustee the Belize Development Trust of Caye Caulker.