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Aug 12, 2016

Price Barracks Breaks Under Hurricane Earl

In times of national emergency and natural disaster, Belize Defense Force personnel are among the first responders.  Whether deploying from their headquarters at Price Barracks or from elsewhere, the men and women of the armed forces remain on active duty throughout.  Last Wednesday however, they were forced to remain indoors when Hurricane Earl made landfall near Vista del Mar before proceeding through Ladyville.  During the eye of the storm, a team of soldiers was sent out into the area to rescue residents in the seaside community that were trapped by the rising water.  Thankfully those efforts were successful.  But the military installation at Airport Camp sustained major damage as the heavy winds that accompanied the weather system tore off roofs and littered the base with debris.  This morning, we spoke with Brigadier General David Jones who reported that the damages are in excess of a million dollars and restoration of the camp will take several months.

 

David Jones

Brig. Gen. David Jones, Commander, B.D.F.

“Before the storm was approaching there was a lot of preparation being done prior to the arrival of the storm.  We had our operations office set up and we liaison from our operation office to NEMO, ready to get in the direction that we needed.  We called Operation Fast Ball which meant that all the soldiers who were on holiday, who were on stand down, had to come in off the base and then report to all the various camps within the country.  The majority was here in Price Barracks where we had in excess of four hundred soldiers here on the base who had to weather the storm here.  Preparation before, we had a lot of the windows boarded up, some of the roof tied down and we ensured that all the debris and things that could be missiles that could be thrown around during the hurricane were removed and then placed in a dump area or somewhere safe where it doesn’t affect the infrastructure for the buildings later on.  When the storm actually arrived here it was pretty strong.  It was eleven o’clock in the night.  Winds definitely were in excess of eighty miles an hour, it felt very strong and, as you can see, the destruction that occurred here in Price Barracks was unprecedented.  It’s the first time since storms have been hitting our base that we’ve sustained substantial damage like this.  It will take months for us to get back on our foot.  The estimated damage is in excess of a million dollars of infrastructure damage that we’ve had.  The actual assessment is still ongoing and the families quarters where our families live, at least seven or eight of those houses sustained complete roof damage, roof loss and at least about three families sustained damages inside the building where they lost their household items, electronic items and personal belongings of sentimental value was destroyed.  Even throughout the storm we were getting a lot of calls for the soldiers to go to the Vista del Mar area to go to assist people because there was water rising inside the homes.  There was a point where I said no we were not able to help and the reason for that is for the danger that was posed to the soldiers during the time.  If you can see, the building at the back, that building is over a hundred feet long and in excess of seventy-five feet wide and all the zinc from that roof was being torn off.  There was zinc just flying around the base non-stop, from this building and from the other buildings on the camp where we had substantial damage.  The wind was so strong even when the truck was about to move, the truck was shaking as if though it was going to topple over.  So we had to have the soldiers park in an area and when the eye of the storm apparently was passing over I took the risk and I did send some soldiers out in the Vista del Mar area and we rescued fifty-three people from inside homes that were inundated with water.  People were climbing inside the attic and they were at risk of drowning.  So those fifty-six people are very thankful for the assistance rendered by the Belize Defense Force because during the height of the winds, in excess of eighty miles an hour, they were still out there helping people even though it was not reported but we had our soldiers out there.”

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