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Aug 4, 2016

Hurricane Earl Wreaks Havoc in Vista Del Mar

Also hard hit were communities north of Belize City, including Vista Del Mar and Ladyville. Who would have believed that a category one storm, and barely that, could have wreaked such havoc – winds with the intensity to tear off roofs and bring down homes, and surges of five feet plus in certain areas? By about ten last night, it became clear that category aside, this was a storm on a mission. Our News Five team checked out the most impacted areas outside city limits and Mike Rudon has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The frantic calls after midnight for assistance and emergency evacuation were stunning testimony of the fear which gripped residents of Vista del Mar and Ladyville. This morning the surging waters which covered vehicles, inundated many homes and inspired panic had subsided, but these residents won’t soon forget Earl, an unwelcome guest who didn’t stay long but made an impact.

 

Stephen Bissett

Stephen Bissett, Resident of Vista Del Mar

“About eleven-thirty or so we came out to check the water levels. It was basically a little higher than we’re looking at right now. We went back inside and within ten minutes the water was coming inside the house. Me and my wife tried to drive out from back here and we got as far as the house over there, about a hundred yards from home and the water was coming in the vehicle and shut down the vehicle. And we had to wade our way back in water almost chest height back to the house. By the time we got to the house the water was inside the house and it pressurized the door so we couldn’t get in. Me and my wife spent a horrible hour and a half sitting on the rail of the verandah hugging up each other and just saying our prayers. And after that hour and a half the water receded about six inches and we tried the door again and we were able to get in. Then the water rose again and we stayed in there until it finally came down about three o’clock.”

 

Many homes were impacted by the heavy winds –eighty miles an hour with higher gusts. We saw debris everywhere, fallen trees, roofs ripped off like tinfoil and what was once a home but is now just a cluttered pile of soaked household appliances and possessions. And then there were these boats, chilling on relatively dry land in the mangroves, almost as if placed there for safekeeping. But it wasn’t safe storage. It was Earl.

 

Jason Marin, Resident of Vista Del Mar

“Those boats were on blocks in this boatyard. When the surge came, the water came up extremely fast, within I would say thirty minutes the water went up at least three feet within thirty minutes or less, and it came with heavy wave action. So it floated the boats – the boats floated off – a couple of them were on trailers and they floated off the trailers and off the moorings they were on, burst open my big gate – that big gate was across the road this morning and just ended up all the way over there. We had a heavy – the wind was coming hard from this direction and it took a long while – up to I would say five-thirty this morning we still had water probably a foot above the norm.”

 

This morning the fear of hours past is gone, and the daunting task of cleaning up Earl’s mess has started. Residents have started clearing trees which caused structural damage and are trying to dry and salvage items damaged by the storm surge which invaded their homes. But as they take the first steps to restore normalcy, there is still a sense of shock at the impact and the devastation.

 

Stephen Bissett

“Early this morning we were out and we moved the vehicles that were clogging the road and the neighbours have all tried to assist each other. We’ve noticed there’s been some horrible damage. As far as we know there’s been no loss of life so we want to thank God for that. We must say that for a Category One this is definitely an unbelievable experience. We stayed back here for Richard and the water didn’t get to the levels that we got and according to the reports we received this was supposedly a smaller hurricane or storm than Richard.”

 

Jason Marin

“I stayed here in 2010 I think it was for Richard, and it was nothing like this. This in my opinion was far more than a Category one.  Being here last night and seeing the force of that storm – it came with some heavy gusts and strong winds.”

 

Jason Marin

So why didn’t these residents leave their homes for safer ground? There was ample warning given, even if the sheer power of the storm may have been misjudged. For these homeowners in Vista del Mar and Ladyville, the concern is the same as it probably is all over the country – you leave your home and it becomes fair game for looters, despite the best efforts of the Police.

 

Stephen Bissett

“When we got the scare of Mitch everybody had evacuated. I think the big problem that Belizeans have and one of the main reasons that I stayed back here is because once the power goes and stuff there’s no security for your belongings and everybody works hard for their belongings and want to keep it. To be honest with you I know the Police and everybody did a whale of a job working through the night and so on but I think we have to watch what we report on the news too because last night while listening to the radio I heard some Police officers saying the weather is here and we’re not coming out, but believe me while they are not coming out the workers are coming out to do their work. Its one thing to lose your belongings to the storm but it’s another thing to come home and your belongings are not there none at all.”

 

If there is any bright spot in this short but memorable visit from Earl, it is the sure knowledge the Belizeans will likely never again take a major storm lightly. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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