"La Isla Bonita" rushes to aid hurricane victims

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 40            October 11, 2001

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Knowing all too well what destruction a hurricane can inflict on a community, an urgent meeting was called by the San Pedro Emergency Committee early Tuesday morning. Mayor Alberto Nuñez, Assistant Inspector of Police Linden Flowers, Area Representative Patty Arceo and a large group of concerned citizens made a swift decision to begin gathering relief supplies for the victims of Hurricane Iris which took its toll on the southern part of Belize Monday evening. A plan was implemented at the meeting and boat owners were on hand, ready and willing to set sail for Placencia as soon as relief supplies could be loaded.

    Reef Radio arrived at the town hall and proceeded to set up their broadcasting equipment and by 11:00 a.m. the airwaves of San Pedro were filled with the message "Let us lend a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in southern Belize." With much enthusiasm and a feeling of unity, this call to action was immediately answered as people began to arrive at the town hall bringing countless amounts of food, clothing and miscellaneous items. The San Pedro Red Cross, San Pedro Lions Club and the Salvadoran Brothers in Arms took to the streets collecting relief supplies for the victims of Hurricane Iris. Residents and businesses called in to pledge their support as the volunteers set a target of $20,000 to be collected before 9:00 p.m. The phone rang non-stop encouraging others to do the same; to search deep inside their hearts and pockets and give generously to the hurricane victims. Only hours after the commencement of this radio-thon, the San Pedro Town Hall was filled with supplies and volunteers working non-stop, sorting clothing and packing food into individual bags to be delivered to the affected residents.

    By 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, the first shipment of relief supplies was personally delivered to Placencia by Deputy Mayoress Mel Spain and Melanie Paz, via Tropic Air. According to Deputy Mayoress Spain, San Pedro was one of the first communities to arrive, delivering over 25 packages containing food and water. "There are a few structures standing upright but it really does not look good. It is like when Hurricane Keith struck San Pedro but twice as hard." Ms. Spain told the San Pedro Sun that a resident of Placencia told her that he had witnessed 14 hurricanes but that this one was the worst he had ever seen or experienced. In a report to the people of San Pedro, Mrs. Melanie Paz stated that the village was hit extremely hard. She said villagers told her they are having a hard time recognizing their own village due to the vast destruction. "It is as if a bomb was dropped in Placencia," ended Mrs. Paz.

    As the day went by the spirit of unity continued to intensify in San Pedro. By 7:00 p.m., the target of $20,000 had been reached and a new target of $30,000 was set. Ernesto "Nasa" Caliz, Eiden Salazar Jr. and Angel Nuñez all stressed the need to bring relief and basic necessities to the victims of the hurricane, softening the hearts of many and allowing for more and more donations to come in. Volunteers of all ages came to lend a helping hand including Miss San Pedro Dilcia Trejo who also urged the community to give generously to this cause. Just minutes before 9:00 p.m. a total of $24,956.38 had been raised. It was then that His Lordship Mayor Alberto Nuñez announced the San Pedro Town Council's donation of $10,000 bringing the grand total to $34,956.38. This amount, and the money that continues to be donated will be converted into much needed medicine and other basic necessities for the communities of southern Belize.    

    Early Wednesday morning, seven boats filled with relief supplies, generators and clean-up volunteers left San Pedro for Placencia. From that point, they will make their way to the numerous villages along the coast, all the way to Punta Gorda. This shipment is not expected to be the last as more supplies are still being collected at the town hall. A report from Placencia on Wednesday morning stated that when the boats arrived around 9:30 a.m., residents of the area received them with loud cheers and applause. Since that initial delivery, workers continue to put together relief supplies, gather additional volunteers and journey out to render their aid. Thumbs up to the boat owners and volunteers who traveled to southern Belize!

    Hats off as well to the residents of San Pedro, one of the first Belizean communities to arrive to the disaster areas with relief supplies. The people of this island have once again come together, this time to assist our fellow Belizeans who last year were so quick to help when Hurricane Keith left its mark on the island. Way to go San Pedro!

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