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Jan 28, 2000

Residents of Maya Mopan rebuild after fire

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In Belize City fires are becoming an all too frequent event and it seems like every week a family is left homeless. But this week the fire was in Belmopan in the community of Maya Mopan. Yesterday the blaze swept through nine homes leaving dozens homeless, most of them children. Janelle Chanona visited Maya Mopan and found just about everyone is pitching in to make things easier for the victims.

Justina Pop, Fire Victim

“I lost everything what I have I just can’t do better, I just crying and sit down, find myself on the street.”

Janelle Chanona

“Where you used live?”

Isidora Pop, Fire Victim

“Right there. JC: “Right here where we’re standing?” “Yes, right here, we have three houses and three of them get burned. JC: What happened yesterday?”

?Well I don’t know the thing…I was inside the room when I heard people screaming, I came out and I watched and when I saw the house was on fire. Then the neighbour came and told me to help and so I tried to help her but then I said no, my house first, so I tried to help my house first and I carried my clothes over there and some few things and still it got burnt due to the wind and the fire was strong so I couldn’t help anyway.”

The scent of smoke is still strong in the village of Maya Mopan, after an afternoon fire yesterday destroyed nine thatched homes. In all, fifty-eight people have been left homeless, forty-two of those children and many with little more than the clothes on their backs. Today, some of the men of the village went to the nearby forest to cut logs, eager to get their lives back on track. After Maria Pena of the Belmopan Red Cross Society surveyed the damage last night, she opened the Red Cross building to the fire victims.

Maria Pena, Belmopan Red Cross Society

“We already had food that we had in our container, you know, should in case we have any emergencies, so the food that no problem and the sleeping was no problem because we have sheets, blankets and everything.”

Maria Pena

“We’re cooking twenty five pounds of rice, ten chickens, and fourteen pounds of beans because we might have a little bit for supper.”

?Well, we’ve had a response from the community and it has been very, very good, the whole community, Salvapan and the surrounding villages we have a good response from them so that everybody bring food, clothes and I think that when they are ready to leave we will give them a pack of food and clothes to take along.”

Janelle Chanona

“Neighbors say the fire began in this home after strong winds sent sparks from the home’s fire hearth into the thatched roof. The fire quickly spread to the neighboring homes, and when fire fighters finally arrived on the scene, residents allege that they came without water.”

Evarista Chiac

“That was the house that was burning when the fire engine came, but they came without water, and them, we can’t depend on them, they know that this place don’t have water but they still come without water and then that one caught fire, we start to call them to come over here, but they say they didn’t have water, plus the fire was too heavy for them, they can’t come close to the water, and then the other house caught fire, and then the other one caught fire and right so the house burn down.”

Judencio Saki, Chairman, Village Council, Fire Victim

“When the fireman came, I don’t know, maybe the tank is not full, its empty, just a little bit of water it bring, and we try get water and we cannot get water in Maya Mopan, because we know that Maya Mopan don’t have water line yet and that’s the problem from Maya Mopan, we don’t have any water there, and the firemen tried to get from the creek, but the little creek was dry and we couldn’t get any water and that’s the reason the firemen cannot help us.”

Fire officials in Belmopan told News Five when they arrived on the scene their truck was filled with water but the water only lasted for about five minutes. The truck tried to refill at a nearby creek but it was too shallow and they had to go back to Belmopan. Despite the disaster on their hands, Isidora Pop is confident the community will to rebuild itself.

Isidora Pop

“This is a community that in everything they unite and they help each other, and I’m proud of my community because although like we are what they say Indians or Mayas, like that I know they usually help because we will never leave our people, we would never leave them aside, we should all help each other, we should unite each other…I love my people.”

Mayoral candidates and their running mates of both political parties were in the heat of the fire yesterday. With the city council elections just over a month away, some thing the candidates could try to use the tragedy to gain political support. Saki says his community will see through the politicians’ promises.

Judencio Saki

?These times here, people are not blind. I know we are poor, we have poor education, we don?t get education, we?ll see now what kind of politics.?

But mayoral candidate Anthony Chanona says he and his opponent, Andy Johnson have no intention of exploiting the fire in Maya Mopan.

Anthony Chanona

“Unto the heels of the disaster the other mayoral candidate, Mr. Andy Johnson and I had communicated and we felt that this was an opportune time to show some maturity to the process and we have jointly opened an account for the victims of the fire. I have here the one in Belize Bank, the number is 207554, I don’t remember the one that Andy has, and the People’s United Party has started their fund at three hundred, the United Democratic Party, Mr. Johnson, has started an account at Barclays at three hundred, and we are appealing to the public to support the fund strictly on a non-partisan issue. So that should obviously send a signal that we in Belmopan tend to conduct the affairs of the city differently.”

Janelle Chanona for News Five.

The estimated damage cost is still unknown, but several villages told News Five they loss substantial amounts of cash. One man told us he lost nine thousand dollars he had been saving to pay for his wedding. He had been saving for nine years.

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