Hurricane Dean costs Belize $107 Million +

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 34            August 30, 2007

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Hurricane Relief came in the form of volunteers and donations for the many Belizean people affected by Hurricane Dean in the Northern Districts.

Mexican newspapers (Por Esto) carried photos highlighting the devastation that Dean wrought on Majahual, one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s main attractions, and one of Belize’s close neighbors.

Chunox Village received the most damage.

A week after Belize was threatened by the wrath of Hurricane Dean, recovery efforts are well underway in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. Although Dean’s impact to the coastal island of Ambergris Caye was not as extensive, people in the Northern Districts were deeply affected. These people continue to receive assistance from the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and other concerned groups.

    After battering St. Lucia and Jamaica last week, Hurricane Dean came ashore near Costa Maya or Majahual, Quintana Roo, Mexico, around 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 21st, 2007. The following afternoon, Dean made a second landfall with 100-mile per hour winds at Tecolutla, Mexico, as a Category Two hurricane, and at last report it was surviving as a tropical depression over inland Mexico. Even though Dean’s eye landed north of Belize early Tuesday, the hurricane battered the northern districts which are closer to our border with Mexico. According to The National Meteorological Service Dean made landfall only 43 miles north of Corozal Town, Belize’s northernmost municipality, where it caused the bulk of its destruction. Hurricane force winds extended for 60 miles from the center, impacting a large radius of northern Belize. Dean goes down in history as one of the strongest storms to have hit this region in this century, and the most devastating since Hurricane Gilbert struck Mexico in 1988, after ruining Jamaica. There was no damage sustained in Belize City, Western and Southern Belize.

Belize’s Disaster Area - Housing

    Reports coming from NEMO state that close to 2,000 people have been left homeless, the bulk of them in rural Corozal, after Dean pummeled the northern districts of Belize. In a statement released on Friday, August 24th, 2007, Prime Minister Said Musa said, “It will cost at least US$10 million to replace or repair the hundreds of houses that have been completely or partially destroyed or sustained structural damage.”

    NEMO claims that in the district of Corozal, 275 houses were completely destroyed and at least 451 were partially destroyed.

    According to the DANA report (a preliminary Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis) almost half the housing losses in the Corozal District were reported in the Chunox Village. NEMO reported in that village, 115 homes were destroyed while 273 were damaged.

    In all, roughly 1,650 persons are reportedly homeless in the entire district with housing losses being tagged at BZ$5.88 million. With electricity not yet restored to all areas of the town, the 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew was extended for a few more days.

    At the country’s border, the Corozal Free Zone also received major damage. “There were 250 buildings damaged in the Corozal Free Zone, representing some 16,000 square foot of roof loss. This is estimated at a value of BZ$4.8 million,” the DANA report says.

    Over in the Orange Walk District, the villages of San Jose and San Pablo suffered substantial damage to houses.

    In Orange Walk Town, 800 homes were affected with estimated losses of BZ$3.5 million and 258 persons were left homeless there.

Belize’s Disaster Area – Agriculture

    The biggest impact of the storm was felt on the northern side of the eye, with the northern districts of Belize being spared from major damage. However, even though the damage was severe, Belize could have fared much worse.

    A preliminary DANA report following Hurricane Dean presented a substantial agricultural loss. Reports indicate that million were lost when Dean’s strong winds hit the north. Of that amount Bz$30 million was reported for the papaya industry. Fruta Bomba, a papaya production company in the Corozal District, lost 600 of its 1,200 acres of papaya, while Little Belize lost 180 of their 200 acres.

    An estimated 6,000 acres of sugarcane were affected by the powers of Mother Nature, with losses valued at about Bz$3.6 million, and production loss is estimated at 10% to 15%, equating to a Bz$15 million loss in foreign exchange and millions more in rehabilitation costs, according to the report prepared by the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO).

San Pedro Town/Ambergris Caye

    As reported in last week’s issue, San Pedro Town received more of a clean-up campaign rather than massive destruction. On North Ambergris Caye, damaged received was evident at Costa Maya Reef Resort, which is one of the resorts closer to the Mexican border. In an interview with General Manager David Hess, The San Pedro Sun discovered that the most damage received was on their dock and the palapa which lived there. Many of the northern resorts and residents were without electricity until Saturday. Speaking with NEMO coordinator for Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, estimated damages reached an estimated $2.5 million Belize. Damages were calculated in the destruction of the docks/piers. “With approximately 200 docks on the island, 85% were damaged,” he stated.

Relief Efforts

    Official reports coming from the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) indicated that, as of, Tuesday, August 28th, less than a 100 people remained in the shelters provided. Most of the refugees had moved and are presently living with friends and relatives.

    When it comes to utilities and services, 95% of Corozal Town has electricity, and 20 of the 29 villages in the Corozal District have also been connected. With electricity rudimentary water systems in all of those villages have also come back on line. To those villages that have yet to be connected to the water system, NEMO is supplying them with the precious commodity. NEMO has also been hard at work providing hurricane relief to those storm damaged communities. According to coordinator, Jim JanMohammed 10,000 persons have been fed in the past week. NEMO will be providing additional food packages for 10,000 residents in the thirty villages that will last for up to fourteen days.

    Teams from the British Army and the Police Department are fixing roofs and JanMohammed commented that almost four thousand sheets of zinc have been sent out. And while progress is being made, NEMO is presently distributing a number of building materials to continue with the reconstruction efforts. These include 470 plywood, 307 zinc, 200 pieces of ridging, 268 PVC pipes and 798 plumbing fittings. Two teams of 20 Belize Defense Force (BDF) officers are assisting residents in Libertad and Ranchito with their rebuilding efforts. A total of 67 are assisting with escorting supplies to villages while 24 are assisting with debris and cleaning efforts in Chunox. Thirty British soldiers are also assisting with the clearing of the road from Shipstern to Fireburn village. As of press time, the Police Department continued with assistance in the village of Paraiso, Chan Chen and Yo Chen village where several families were assisted with replacing their roofs, putting up walls and any other rebuilding needs of their homes.

    As far as health is concerned, vector control spraying campaigns have also been completed in 16 villages. Part of the regional assistance Prime Minister Said Musa referred to in his countrywide statement arrived in Belize on Friday, August 24th, as the Cuban government dispatched ten sanitary technicians to assist local officials. The sanitary brigade brought thirty portable foggers and chemicals in the form of insecticide and larvicide. Since Saturday the team has been working in the northern villages spraying houses to exterminate mosquitoes carrying dengue and malaria. According to Director of Health Services, Jorge Polanco, so far eight hundred houses have been sprayed. The Cuban technicians will be in the country for two weeks. With the various agricultural industries down, workers in Corozal are without employment. In an attempt to relief their financial strain, NEMO has provided close to 200 job openings for those that find themselves with out. “They are helping us in the re-building of these villages. It won’t last long, a month or two at the very most. Any assistance that helps them get back on their feet financially is what we are trying to offer,” commented JanMohammed.

Wish List

    Jim JanMohammed, NEMO coordinator for Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, was designated to head the recovery effort in the northern districts. JanMohammed is collaboratively working together with other relief agencies, and states that so far everything is going well. According to JanMohammed needs are being met but he will not leave those families without providing them with a roof. As part of his wish list, he has included the following: nails, dry wood, tools, ridging and zincs. To receive further information kindly call him at (610) 3658.
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