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Oct 26, 1998

B.D.F. prepares

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This morning the Belize Defense Force held a news conference to outline the B.D.F.’s role in preparing for and dealing with Hurricane Mitch. Major Shelton DeFour, the force operations and training officer went over the operations currently underway and the plans in place for protecting the citizens in parts of the country who may be threatened by the hurricane.

Major Shelton DeFour, Force Operations and Training Officer

“Our responsibility is to provide as much warning as possible through our patrols and observation posts that we have on the ground and by other units we have deployed countrywide in Belize. The responsibility for us mainly would be providing shelter warnings, providing relief support for, relief supplies, storage of food for the country of Belize that will be moved up into airport camp area. We are also responsible for supporting the police regarding looting and things associated with such a situation. We are responsible also to provide the necessary clearance and search and rescue for the people of Belize in the event we have people who are lost etc.”

Following a Cabinet meeting this morning, Major Shelton DeFour, B.D.F.’s Force Operations and Training Officer said an order was made to evacuate all those people on the island of San Pedro Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker who wish to leave the islands.

Major Shelton DeFour

“We have San Pedro being evacuated being done by the Belize Maritime Wing, coordinated with the mayor of San Pedro utilizing local and government assets as available. And that is also supported by B.D.F. Defender aircraft being flown by Captain Dortch, who will be lifting people from San Pedro and bringing them to the Goldson International Airport or the Municipal Airport depending on where they wish to go.”

Q: “What about those people living in the low lying areas of Belize, in particular, like the Cayo District?”

Major Shelton DeFour

“People in the low lying areas, based on the district disaster plan, the Belize Defence Force in close conjunction and other agencies within the district will be looking at giving them sufficient warning, doing reconnaissance to identify those who are threatened and then to subsequently take the necessary rescue action or evacuation action as their plan is arranged to do.”

DeFour says, while at this time no one is certain where Hurricane Mitch will make landfall or at what category, the public is being advised to prepare for the worst.

Major Shelton DeFour

“Whether it’s buying canned foods, storing portable water, etc., getting kerosene, buying flashlight, batteries for your flashlight and that sort of thing, those precautions are very important. That is one of things that we recommend, securing all loose objects, getting ready to board up your house before you move. Secure properly because if you have to move to a shelter, then your homes in some instances, may be at risk for looting.

So you need to look at that keenly and locate the shelter that you must go to. Be cognizant of the things that you must take into to a shelter, you know some people want to take their cats, their dogs and things like that. Those things are not allowed in a shelter and plan for a duration of seven to ten days with those things that you need to take, like a medical pack, food for seven to ten days, baby diapers or napkins, baby foods and that sort of thing. If you have young children, the medical pack is relative to your elderly or your sick persons who may be with you.”

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