Placencia post-hurricane report

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 11, No. 42            October 25, 2001

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Reports out of Placencia this week are that things are progressing much the same as they did in San Pedro nearly a year ago, after Hurricane Keith. This was stated in comparison to the situation after Hurricane Iris, a Category IV hurricane which hit the southern districts of Belize on October 8th. According to Jim Janmohamed, acting National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) Manager for the Stann Creek South area, building supplies are the major supply need at this time. "Zinc, plywood and lumber are in short supply," stated Mr. Janmohamed.

    The NEMO manager went on to describe the situation at hand. NEMO operations have been split into separate areas, Stann Creek South and Toledo. When asked for a comparison to "Keith," he replied that, in his area, the difference is the amount of people affected. He stated many more people are suffering in the southern part of Belize; the area is extremely different than Ambergris Caye with some heavily and some very sparsely populated villages so facilitating everyone's needs is more of a challenge. (A report could not be confirmed for the Toledo area as of Tuesday.)

    As far as infrastructure, Mr. Janmohamed informed that water is being pumped by either portable or permanent generators to all the village water reservoirs. He explained that 4500 feet of underwater pipe responsible for pumping water from Independence to Placencia was damaged by the hurricane. A special high-density replacement pipe was ordered (with help from San Pedro's Ernesto Gomez!) and should be delivered by Hyde Shipping on Thursday. He reported Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) representative Moreno was working with NEMO and that BEL was scheduled to begin initiating power to priority areas Wednesday. Phone service has been restored in some areas thanks to the aid of representatives Tesecum, Bevans and Black from Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL). Community-use phones were restored in Monkey River and Placencia areas first. It was further mentioned that approximately 100 BTL employees assisted in a clean-up day.

    To facilitate the rebuilding efforts, Minister Henry Canton has met with village councils in Placencia and Seine Bight. He has set up a housing scheme whereby local contractors and suppliers will be used, aiding the local economy.

    Mr. Janmohamed gave thanks to friend John Bell in assisting him with many tasks. Garbage pick-up has resumed, septic tanks emptied and damaged ones repaired to alleviate some health hazards. He reported the water table remains high, mostly because rains are steady due to the season. Controlling the mosquito population is becoming difficult and aerial sprays are being discussed in order to prevent infestation. 

   It appears a sense of order is being restored as community leaders motivate people to become involved in the rebuilding efforts. The speedy replacement of merely zinc on a roof has made it possible for schools such as Seine Bight and San Juan to open. Post offices are re-opening and regularly scheduled flights from both airlines have resumed. It was stated that these airlines are responsible for the charitable delivery of much of the relief supplies. Also special mention was made of the Shipyard Mennonite community for the unsolicited rebuilding of a much used local pier which aided in receiving shipments as well. It was reported they simply showed up with their own supplies and materials and began construction.

    A meeting of Tourism representatives and the Belize Tourism Board was scheduled to take place Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. to discuss when tourists can begin coming back to the area and other issues. Although many resorts were destroyed, some of those which suffered less severe damage are anxious to get back to work. (The report below will give more details on affected tourism industry properties.)

    This following informative message was made available late last week from Placencia resident Mary V. Toy regarding the condition of several properties in the area and the post-hurricane state of the affairs there. We are sharing it in an effort to update those wishing more information on specific details. The San Pedro Sun extends its appreciation and best wishes for recovery to Mary who lost her Placencia home as well to Hurricane Iris.

    "I'm in Belize City for a couple of days. Placencia has no phones, no water, no electricity, and many, many people have no homes (me included). We had lots of looting for the first few days after the hurricane (and even BEFORE the hurricane), but the Belize police and BDF have gotten that under control. Right now, the concentration is on getting water to people, putting on roofs and repairing the few inhabitable homes that are left, plus debris removal. (The area of the sidewalk from BTL south past Serenade looks like the site of a very large explosion, with almost no buildings left.)

    On the beach, Tradewinds (Placencia Village), Sonny's (Placencia Village), Coconut Cottages (Placencia Village), Cozy Corners (Placencia Village), Wamasa (Seine Bight), Ranguana Lodge (Placencia Village), Julia and Lawrence's (Placencia Village), Sunrider (Placencia Village), Dockside (Placencia Village), Maya Playa (Maya Beach) and Tentacles (Placencia Village) no longer exist (except for rubble). Angelfish Inn in Seine Bight looks heavily damaged.

    Three cabañas at Ranguana Lodge survived intact, but were rolled upside down onto their roofs. When Eddie Leslie tried to right them, they fell apart. Tony Eiley expects to start rebuilding Dockside and Tentacles as soon as he can win his argument with his insurance company (he was on the early Tropic flight with me this morning).

    Sea Spray's oldest building has been condemned, but Norman and Jodie think they can have the two-story building reconstructed by Christmas. Westwind is still there, but heavily damaged (a couple of small rooms are somewhat livable).

    Jake Roberts, Kerrie Turton and Brad Turton have been working feverishly to restore the Internet Cafe (sans Internet) to provide free breakfasts to hurricane workers. The Galley is feeding the BDF and BJ's is the NEMO headquarters to provide meals and clothing to local residents. Kitty's is open, has a few rooms available and is serving a limited menu in the restaurant. She should be fully operable by November 1st. The quads at Rum Point escaped with only minor damage as did the main building (Carol and George's private residence suffered more damage). Rum Point expects to be fully operational by around Thanksgiving, as does Serenity (right now with a full house of NEMO and BEL employees). Robert's Grove should be up and fully running by November 1st (including the beach-side pool in the new condo development, the pool in the main hotel area needs some repairs that may take a bit longer). Not sure about Luba Hati, and Mariposa doesn't expect to be back on-line until January 15 or later. Miller's Landing should be ready to go around Christmas. Turtle Inn was virtually obliterated, but Coppola is already bulldozing the old buildings and we hear he is ready to rapidly reconstruct with new (and better) facilities.

    Village Inn and Sun and Sea Cabañas were also heavily damaged and we don't know whether they plan to re-open. Only two structures remain on the Mother Ocean property, both uninhabitable.

    I haven't been to Maya Beach since we drove through from Cave's Branch last Wednesday (a BIG thanks to Ian Anderson who took in a bunch of Placencia refugees and provided us with wonderful food and shelter, asking only for a contribution to the Rescue Team). However, I've been told that Barnacle Bill's is ready to go, plus Maya Beach Hotel.

    The biggest problem may be water. One diver reported that the main water pipeline under water in the Placencia Lagoon between Placencia and Independence looks like a corkscrew. We've heard that a completely new pipe needs to be laid, which could take some time. The larger resorts will truck in water, but the lack of water could prove insurmountable to the smaller lodging facilities that are able to rebuild, especially in Placencia and Seine Bight Villages (not to mention the problems that causes for residents).

    BEL is working frantically to restore electrical service. BTL has installed a bank of five pay phones and two Internet connections in a small building located behind the existing BTL building (the existing building suffered significant damage). The BTL execs from Belize City wouldn't offer a time estimate for restoration of service, but full restoration could take up to four months.

    Placencia has a LOT of homeless people right now. One of our best guides sent his wife and baby to relatives, and he's living in a small house with 14 other people. Four of my friends and I are living in 2 bedrooms, but we do have two bathrooms, a full kitchen and a small living room  luxury under the circumstances.

    The prospects for permanent lodging for people who don't own their own property is pretty grim, plus, lots and lots of local residents have no insurance. I was told by a Department of Natural Resources employee that people in the villages are sleeping on the beach. Food supplies are somewhat low as most of the donated food is being funneled south to Toledo. Atlantic Bank has re-opened, but few people are doing any banking. (Small businesses here live basically hand-to-mouth, and this is the end of the slow season, when few people have any remaining monetary resources.)

   Except for the palm trees, most of the vegetation in Placencia Village is gone, leaving it hot and barren. However, some trees are already showing signs of new leaves, so we're keeping our fingers crossed. (My lobster claw plants survived in pretty decent shape, and my neighbor's grapefruit tree looks better than ever. Most of the craboo trees were pulled up by the roots, as were many of the cashews and mangos.) The lack of foliage is causing a big problem for the local iguana populations and I was told that the Howler Monkey population was seriously threatened.

    Many people believe that lots of tornadoes were within Hurricane Iris. In a number of areas, one house is heavily damaged, while the structure right next to it appears untouched.  People who stayed in Placencia Village during the hurricane report lots of wind shifts and that the wind seemed to be trying to twist their buildings."
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