Villages on Rio Hondo are isolated
Rivers continue to rise in much of northern Belize and concern now focuses
on both the human and economic suffering occasioned on the mainland in the
aftermath of hurricane Keith. An extensive aerial survey by News Five this
morning showed that a number of communities have been hard hit by
floodwaters in the Belize, Orange Walk and Corozal Districts. As we first
reported on yesterday's newscast the village of Crooked Tree is no longer
accessible by road. This view from the air shows that the causeway is
covered by many feet of water for what appears to be several miles. The
rising waters are also beginning to flood numerous structures along the
lagoon, including houses and resorts.
Moving to the Orange Walk District the major trouble spot is the Rio
Hondo. Blue Creek appears to be the hardest hit and that Mennonite
community's vital production of rice and cattle will be curtailed for
perhaps as long as a year. Those viewers familiar with the area will
notice that the endless sea of green fields has now become... just a sea.
Mennonite losses are large
David Dyck, the community's co-chairman, told News Five that Blue Creek's
losses will run to around 6 million dollars.
David Dyck, Co-Chairman, Blue Creek
"Well this is spoilt. If it stays underwater more than a week, it's lost.
If it goes down quick, then we can still harvest it, but not if it stays
longer. They expect this to last maybe for a month because it's still
"What's that going to mean to the housewife and the rest of the country?"
"Well we have to eat something else. We have to eat cattle, we have lots
of cattle and no grass."
"What are you going to do with all the cattle, that flying over, it looks
like they were stranded out there with barely any land to graze?"
"I myself have 2,800 acres of land under water and we have maybe about 20%
that's grass and I don't know what I'll do with the cattle. I have to find
something because I our road to the city is blocked off and so cannot haul
them out to somewhere else, and in this area we don't have any grass. I
don't know yet. We might canoe out for a month or so, but more than I
month I don't know what to do."
Dyck said that he estimates that Blue Creek received approximately 30
inches of rain and that 95% of the community's rice crop will be
destroyed. He will attempt to move his 1,400 head of cattle to makeshift
pastures on higher ground, but at present all roads out of the area are
impassable by even the highest vehicles.
Downstream communities face flooding
As bad as things are in Blue Creek, they are just a preview of what
communities downstream will suffer as the determined waters of the Rio
Hondo wind their way to the sea some 75 miles away. And not just Belize is
affected. On your screen is the Mexican village of La Union, just a long
jump across the Rio Hondo from Blue Creek. It too has been cut off from
the rest of the nation and Mexican army helicopters have been busy
ferrying supplies from Chetumal.
On the Belize side of the border the three villages in the most trouble
are San Antonio, San Roman and Douglas. As these pictures show, parts of
San Antonio are already underwater.
The same goes for San Roman Village, which lies several miles downstream
from San Antonio and will receive its peak flooding perhaps as much as a
Still further downstream the village of Douglas is under threat, as are
surrounding agricultural lands. All the villages mentioned are cut off
from road communication and in many cases bridges have been washed out and
ferries rendered inoperable. We hope to have additional video of these
villages shot from ground level, later in this newscast.
Sugar loses predicted to be $10 million
The wind, rain and rising waters have impacted more than just the
residents of northern Belize. Sugar, the economic mainstay of the region,
not to mention the entire nation, has also taken a hit. An official team
representing all facets of the sugar industry did a flyover of cane lands
this morning and their report should be ready next week. For the present,
BSI had reported significant flooding of the fields around San Victor,
Douglas, San Roman, San Antonio and San Estevan. Some cane is totally
underwater, while additional acreage is partially inundated. Belize Sugar
Industries has the potential to process 1.2 million tons of cane and
before Keith was looking forward to deliveries of 1.1 million. In the wake
of Keith's devastation BSI is now estimating a crop of only 950,000 tons.
This should translate into a little over 90,000 tons of sugar. The lost
production, which will come out of world market sales, means that export
revenues may be reduced by as much as ten million Belize dollars.
Fishing industry will also suffer
Sugar is not the only major industry to be touched by Keith. Tourism of
course will suffer on San Pedro and Caye Caulker and so will another
economic activity: fishing. Bobby Usher of the Northern Fisheries
Cooperative told News Five that his co-op's receiving station at Caye
Caulker has been destroyed and so have most skiffs and motors belonging to
fishermen. In addition most lobster traps around the cayes have been
scattered and buried. No estimates have been made, but the losses in the
coming months and next year should be substantial for both lobster and
conch producers. Usher says that fishermen in the south whose waters were
not affected will have to try and take up some of the slack.
Insurance companies begin to settle claims
One institution designed to ease the pain of disasters like Keith is
called insurance. It is difficult to estimate how many claims have arisen
from this hurricane, but adjusters have been working around the clock to
get them settled. This afternoon we spoke to the head of one of the
nation's largest insurers to get a feel for the situation.
Tony Flynn, Managing Director, Regent Insurance Company
"I think a lot of the middle classes and the people who borrow money from
the banks will have insurance, but the grass roots unfortunately perhaps
"At this time can you give us an estimate of the insured damage?"
"No not really. I haven't quite got a handle on that yet. I have had some
75, 80 claims reported to me since we opened after Keith and we will still
keep getting some after a few days."
"Claims that have been coming in, are they from the cayes?"
"I think 90% of all the claims will come from Caye Chapel, Caye Caulker
and San Pedro."
"For those who have not made claims as yet, how should people go about
"I think the easiest thing to do is just notify your insurance company
preferably in writing although we have been getting faxes from all over
and just say we have suffered damage because of hurricane Keith, please
come and see it."
"Will companies be bringing adjusters from abroad?"
"On Monday afternoon I contacted my adjusters in Miami. I was in Fort
Lauderdale at the time this happen. We had 10 adjusters come in on the
first plane on Wednesday."
"A very important question is and I think it is one that is on everyone's
mind is how quickly will claims be settled?"
"That will depend on company to company really. First of all certain
companies keep liquid assets ready for this type of eventuality. It
depends on your relationship with your own bankers; it depends on your
relationship with your reinsurers. I mean if you got say 10 million
dollars worth of claims, there is no way that a Belizean company can pay
all that amount in the first week. But I would expect if they got a good
relationship with their bankers and reinsurers and they got clients, who
are very patient this won't take too long."
Don't forget that there are another two months left in this year's
hurricane season, so even if Keith caught you uninsured, it's still not
too late to be covered for the next one.
Mercy Kitchen helps elderly victims
In times of disaster the most stress is invariably placed on the people
who are least able to help themselves. Jackie Woods today visited one
institution dedicated to providing assistance to those who need it most.
Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Due to the damage sustained by their homes many elderly residents of
Belize City have been especially burdened. The Mercy Kitchen an
organization which helps care for our older folks has been trying hard to
make things easier.
Alicia Martin, Co-Director, Mercy Kitchen
"We have a vehicle where we can take them and I have seen you know they
are trying to evacuate. Some of them having to dig drains so that the
water can get out of their yards and some of them have repairs, but they
don't have anywhere else to go but here. They are elderly and they are
very poor. Some of them have relatives, but they are poor also. The only
voice they have is here at Mercy Kitchen."
"Has the Mercy Kitchen done any kind of assessment to see just how many of
our elderly are suffering right now?"
"Yes. We have done with housing and planning 5 houses. I approached them
about maybe 3, 4 months ago, and they did an assessment. I have been
calling like every week for some assistance and nothing has been done."
"And now they are even in a worst position."
"Yes, so I am here, with a plea for them because they will soon not have
anywhere else to go."
If you would like to assist the Mercy Kitchen in anyway possible please
contact, Alicia Martin at 1055 Coral Grove or you can give them a call at
44052. Reporting for News Five I am Jacqueline Woods.
Mayor clarifies shelter policy
As we reported earlier in the week, one of the most disappointing aspects
of hurricane Keith's aftermath was the filthy condition of the shelters
after they were vacated. Today we spoke to Mayor David Fonseca who
explained how the shelters were administered.
"The schools that were used as shelters, the damage they received was not
from the effects of the hurricane itself but from the people who stayed
there. They (the teachers) were saying perhaps NEMO could have been a
little more organized. Now we have two months left in the hurricane
season, what everyone wants to know is what NEMO Belize will do in this
David Fonseca, Mayor, Belize City
"Previously when we had to use shelters the managers of these shelters
would have been public officers. It was found over the years that it was
not effective for a number of reasons. So a decision was made since Mitch
to have the BDF personnel be the manager of the shelter, and there is a
management team that has been put in place for each shelter. Of course the
human element sets in when these storms comes around and some of us don't
appear at our respective posts. This has happened during hurricane Keith.
The BDF responded properly with the assistance of the police being a part
of the team. In some cases we had the Red Cross there and the other part
of the team did not show up."
"The cleaning up and the destruction of some of the assets of the shelter?
Yes that did happen."
Lisa Clare, Teacher
"When you get in your classroom, the stench was so disgusting, your
charts, your books, everything. They left the toilet paper they used to
urinate in the classroom. The toilet paper rolled are right there."
Darren Humes, Teacher
"You have seen here. I am refusing to clean my classroom."
"The people using the facility should have been glad they had somewhere to
go and should have stayed back or maintain the place clean during their
stay. Yes, teachers have a point to complain, but as responsible citizens
we should lend assistance to do a part by cleaning up their respective
schools. And they can contribute that as their contribution to the whole
aspect to the effects of hurricane Keith."
"There have been requests by NEMO to the teachers, principals and managers
to make an assessment to what damages were done, and to hand that report
in to the Ministry of Education, in order for that to take place, so I'm
pretty sure assistance will be coming through NEMO."
Volunteers assist city in cleanup
Since Tuesday, the Belize City Council has been organizing community
groups and volunteers to assist with the city's clean up efforts. The
council is also collecting supplies to aid the victims of hurricane Keith.
Paco Smith, Public Relations Officer, Belize City Council
"What we have here behind me is a large donation of clothing. The majority
of it came from a gentleman by the name of John Craven, but also we've had
individuals from throughout Belize City donating clothing, food, bottled
water, and different things like that. In addition, yesterday we had 10
Peace Corps volunteers from the United States Peace Corps come in and help
to out sort out all of these clothing."
"This is a concerted effort with the Belize City Council and our offices.
For example our Pound Yard office is also out on maintenance and cleaning
up of the streets. We also have the Community Participation Department,
which is located at the Commercial Centre. Their primary role is to assist
in the collection of these volunteer goods and to assist individuals who
are desolate where as their houses were destroyed. I'd just like to
clarify one point though; the Community Participation Department is not
giving out homes. What they're doing is assisting those in need to find
If you would like to volunteer your services with the city's clean up
campaign, Smith can be reached at the council's office at 109 North Front
Street or by calling 02-72308.
Red Cross plays leading role
The Belize Red Cross continues to serve as a focal point for hurricane
relief, both as a recipient of funding and disperser of aid. In addition
to major donations from the international and American Red Cross
organisations, PACT and IDB, recent financial help has come from the Bank
of Nova Scotia, Gentrac and Caterpillar. The Scouts have cooperated by
launching a countrywide appeal for canned goods that will be distributed
by the Red Cross. Already emergency supplies have been sent out to
stricken areas on the cayes as well as villages on the mainland now
isolated by floods.
In related news Belizeans abroad have rallied to the cause. If you are
seeing this newscast on the Internet the Belize Association of Florida is
organizing a shipment for October eleventh. Please call (305) 477-0944 or
(954) 431-1808 for information.
Body of second victim found at San Pedro
One more body has been found off San Pedro Ambergris Caye. At this time
police say that due to the advanced state of decomposition they have been
unable to identify it. According the police the corpse is that of a man
and it was found floating in the waters off the caye. Authorities strongly
suspect that he may be one of the persons missing from a catamaran that
was caught in hurricane Keith and overturned. On Tuesday, the body of Kay
Smith was discovered and Henry Bahh, the only person off the boat found
alive, is presently hospitalized in the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital.
Still missing at sea are Kay's husband Buddy Smith, Sergio Alamilla and
Orange Walk District watches and waits
While News Five's small staff of reporters and cameramen have been on the
go now for the better part of a week, we could not have covered this story
without the help of our colleagues around the country. We have just
received additional footage from Centaur Television in Orange Walk and the
following clips from Orange Walk Town, San Antonio and San Roman come
courtesy of that station.
Jorge Novelo, Resident, San Roman
"The situation in San Roman is so serious right now because we can't come
out from the village. We need boats to come out and we can't come out
without things anyway, so we can't come out from the village."
Manuela Ayuso, Centaur TV
"Did your village receive a lot of damage? Do you have families who are
out of homes? Any flooding of homes?"
"Everybody stayed in the village. The damage to the homes are not much,
only some of the roofs, but we fixed that."
"I understand that you significant damage to your agricultural crops. Tell
us a little bit about that."
"We will have that when this flooding goes down, because the cane, the
corn, all of that got damaged."
"I noticed that the bridge is flooded. I know that there is a road behind
that bridge and we cannot tell which is the road now, so are you able to
tell us how far is this flooding?"
"The flooding from the road to go to Orange Walk is one mile from the
bridge. You can't see the road right now because the water is so high.
There is about 4 feet of water on top of the street on the road to go to
"Do you have any problems in getting food supplies to the village?"
"Yes we have some problems. The village needs food right now."
Thanks to our colleagues in Orange Walk for that report.
from Channel 5
[This message has been edited by Marty (edited 10-07-2000).]