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Aug 3, 2017

The Impact of Hurricane Earl One Year Later

On August third, 2016, residents across the central and northern areas of the Belize District braced themselves in anticipation of Hurricane Earl which made landfall in the early hours of August fourth.  The category two storm caused severe damage to homes and businesses in Vista del Mar, Ladyville, as it made its way inland.  The hurricane also destroyed crops in several industries, including citrus and banana.  When the weather cleared up and a tally of the damages was conducted, it was reported that Earl has cost Belizeans hundreds of millions in physical and economic losses.  Tonight, we look back at the adverse effects of the hurricane and the ability of Belizeans to bounce back from that disaster.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The devastation that was Hurricane Earl, one year ago to date, among the strongest storms to make landfall in Belize in recent times, is still being felt today.  Since the category two tropical storm ravaged parts of the country last August, our mettle as a nation has been soundly tested.  Not only are Belizeans a resilient people, we are also making the best of a bad situation by enduring the economic impact of that natural disaster twelve months later.

 

Joseph Waight

Joseph Waight, Financial Secretary [File: September 20th, 2016]

“We don’t have the preliminary figures yet, but I am hearing something in the area of about one hundred million or so U.S. dollars.  That damage is physical, as well as economic damage – economic damage being loss to crops, loss to exports, loss to productive capacity.  But the physical damage, there’s mercifully for Belize, very little infrastructure, roads, bridges, minimum; a lot of housing damage.  And NEMO, our government agency, has been providing short-term relief, assistance, as well as promises for reconstruction, rebuilding and strengthening of damaged homes.  So far we have released to NEMO about eight million Belize dollars for the relief and reconstruction effort.  We are hoping that we can hold it at around that amount, but as they do the surveys, more and more needs are being identified.  So I am hoping that the eight or ten million dollars will cap it, but we are not sure.”

 

That was more or less what government had set aside for disaster relief in the immediate aftermath of Earl.  The sum was, conceivably, only but a drop in the bucket when compared to what was actually needed to fully rebound from the disaster.  The damages, based on an independent assessment conducted by the Economic Commission of Latin America, were estimated to be roughly one hundred million U.S dollars.  The citrus industry is one area of the agro productive sector that is still reeling from the effects of the hurricane.

 

Henry Anderson

Henry Anderson, C.E.O., Citrus Growers Association

“Last year we did three point two-four million boxes of oranges.  This year we did three point two million boxes of oranges and we lost about five hundred and sixty-nine thousand boxes of oranges to Hurricane Earl.  So had we not had the hurricane we would have seen a trend up in the orange production.”

 

It’s testament to the many losses due to the hurricane.  The proverbial silver lining on this somewhat dark cloud is that Belize is covered under the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility.  The payout, however, is meager by any stretch.  A little over two hundred thousand U.S. dollars in monies received from CCRIF pales in comparison to what was actually lost to Earl.

 

Yvette Alvarez

Yvette Alvarez, Ministry of Finance [File: March 21st, 2017]

“We presently purchase from CCRIF coverage for tropical cyclones and excess rainfall.  And for the first time last year we were able to collect some two hundred and odd thousand U.S. dollars, following the excess rainfalls of Hurricane Earl.  And as people who sit in the Ministry of Finance who have to find the funds to deal with all that happens after a hurricane, those funds, though small, were welcomed.  We’ve never collected under the tropical cyclone part of the policy but we are convinced that it is a policy that we would want to renew on a continuing basis and we continue the dialog with CCRIF as we look into other products that they are exploring.”

 

On a personal level, the wind and water that was the tempest of 2016 was an experience that Marie Arana won’t soon erase from her memory.

 

Marie Arana

Marie Arana, Hurricane Victim [File: October 26th, 2016]

“The first time I experience a hurricane like this so everything mi gone and I never save nothing. Eventually we haul out the wet clothes deh and make dehn dry so that we have something on wi back. Then we deh dah shelter until the end. Human Service come and talk to we. They interview wi and check out the house. They never want wi come back and we still stay in the house. The rain come, ih wet wi up; we sleep with the star get up with the sun, we  sleep with the rain, get up with the sun.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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