Hurricane Hattie in San Pedro - Part II

The hurricane season in Belize extends from June to October. Who would have thought that Hurricane Hattie was to hit Belize on October 31, the last day of the season. However Hattie was real and the morning of November 1st (El mes de los animas - the month dedicated to the deceased and all saints) is a morning long remembered.

Huge waves were still rolling up at about 6 a.m., and in the midst of a light rain the people of San Pedro went out to assess the damage. The beach was practically "peel". Some of the beach houses were partially standing, but way over on Front Street 200 feet away from their original sites. Only the roof of the huge primary school was leaning against two coconut trees in front of the police station. Big Daddy's Club was gone too. Only one building belonging to Mr. Lucio Ayuso, a merchant of Belize City was miraculously standing majestically on the beach with giant waves still rolling under the house.

Front Street was impassable and Middle Street was full of debris and 6 inches of water. The villagers were all about digging up and trying to find some valuable belongings, and picking up canned goods that had scattered from the broken stores. Others were sitting about in shock and hopeless. Still others had commenced the task of reconstruction.

After two days it became evident that San Pedro (Our Isla Feita - our ugly island) needed help. There was no drinking water since the water tanks had fallen and those few that were standing were full of salt water. Food was becoming scarce and a request was made to give away what little the stores had. There was no phone, no radio, no planes, no boats moving, and communication to the mainland was zero.

The next day after Hurricane Hattie a large barge was seen wrecked on the reef near Hol Chan. It looked mysterious as it became visible in the grey and rainy day. One lady started crying in terror that the barge might contain warfare material that would destroy San Pedro. It was the laughing joke of the whole town in the midst of all the suffering. Three or four days later some men ventured onto the barge only to discover a treasure - beds, blankets and foods of all types. It was quickly raided by every man who owned a boat. Those who did not have boats begged for food which was rapidly growing scarce. But the barge was only a temporary relief, not a solution for the suffering village.

About the 4th day or so a British helicopter landed just in front of Central Park where the Catholic school once stood. The village chairman, Mr. Fido Nunez and a few other leaders spoke with the British officers. The next day, two helicopters returned with water in plastic bags and food of all kinds - rice, flour, powdered milk, powdered eggs and corn meal. All the villagers lined up at the police station for hours to receive their rations of food materials. This went on for two or three weeks since Belize City was still practically paralyzed and the stores were not in operation.

Rumour also broke out that at St. George's Caye there was a lot of building material from the wooden mansions that had been broken. Several boats of San Pedro went there and loaded up with lumber which was used for reconstruction. I still remember the 16 x 16 foot house that my dad put together with the help of my uncle Cruz and Chato and Guillermo. It had pink, cream, white, green and blue lumber - a multicolored house but a grand palace for us at the time.

Fishermen took many weeks to rebuild their fishing traps and even longer to build new lobster traps.

But gradually San Pedro began to return to some degree of normality - not the same good old San Pedro - but to normality nevertheless. There remained untouched several vacant lots along the beach as the villagers refused to rebuild there. The school which had been on the beach was rebuilt by the government one year later, this time a ferro concrete building which is still in use today. Electric poles came along after. But there is one golden note to this natural disaster. San Pedro lost no life. Caye Caulker lost 14 and even though a caye or island might seem the worst place to be in a hurricane, we felt God cared for and protected our Isla Bonita.

San Pedro Sun

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