Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Disasters » Storm damages shelter, other structures in Cayo
May 27, 2005

Storm damages shelter, other structures in Cayo

Story PictureRadio listeners were surprised yesterday to hear reports of a freak storm affecting the one part of the country generally regarded as an inland safe-haven during hurricanes and other bad weather. But what happened in the twin towns of Santa Elena and San Ignacio showed all of us that Mother Nature is indeed a fickle and unpredictable lady. Patrick Jones reports.

Patrick Jones, Reporting
The path of destruction stretched from the Nazarene Primary School in San Ignacio to the Joan Garbutt Stadium in Esperanza. Residents worked through the night on Thursday and at first light on Friday, clearing away debris and re-attaching roofs that were blown off by the high winds that accompanied Thursday afternoon?s localised thunderstorm. San Ignacio/Santa Elena Mayor Alfonzo Cruz Junior says he was at home when the bad weather rolled over the area.

Alfonso Cruz, Jr. Mayor, San Ignacio/Santa Elena
?We have strong winds ranging from fifty to eighty miles per hour and the area that was affected most was Santa Elena. In San Ignacio we don?t have many areas affected, but here in Santa Elena, for example behind me you can see the roof, about three hundred feet of the roof was blown away. And also we have a lot of trees that were blown down. And this morning I gathered my workers and we are trying to clear the areas, especially where these trees have caused obstruction of traffic.?

Crews from the Ministry of Public Works and the Town Council were dispatched to clean up the mess left behind. But for some residents, it will take more than just picking up broken branches. Eduardo Alvarez watched helplessly from inside his Santa Elena home as the storm literally tore his house apart.

Eduardo Alvarez, Storm Victim
?Eventually a heavy rain was coming and a lot of thunder and lightning. And I don?t know if this was a tornado that really catch my house, but it started to blow so powerful. And the first thing that I saw was when it lifted up the zincs, it lift it up about three feet. And that was one of the times when it blow. And then another powerful breeze came and then I only see all the zinc flying away. I stayed in there, didn?t know what to do. All I mentioned was God?s name. I said, ?my God what is happening I need help.?

The roof of the house, which has been the Alvarez?s home for the last ten years, was blown hundred of yards away. Today, the family has begun the painful process of rebuilding.

Eduardo Alvarez, Storm Victim
?All my beddings, my mattress, my clothes everything was soak wet; my radio, my TV, everything. I don?t know if they will work because the rain was pouring right inside the house just as if we were standing out here under a heavy rain.?

Patrick Jones
?Is the family now asking for assistance in putting their lives back together??

Eduardo Alvarez
?Well, yes. I ask for assistance yesterday on the radio. And some people promise to give me some assistance. We have a very kind lady; she has a store in Cayo. This morning she called me and she donated three hundred dollars to me. And with that money I took it and I went and buy some lumber and I have some friends that are giving me a hand there now.?

And to make matters worse, Alvarez says he will have to rebuild all on his own or with the help of friends and neighbours.

Eduardo Alvarez
?It wasn?t insured at all. This is one time that mistake come in. I sorry that I hadn?t insured. At least I would get something back, but no insurance. So I lose everything.?

Chairman of the Cayo District Emergency Management Organization, Mario Castellanos, says while estimates of damage from the storm are still coming in, things have started to return to normal in the twin towns.

Mario Castellanos, Chairman, DEMO, Cayo
?What we noticed initially was that a lot of zincs were out, light poles were down, some streets were covered by trees. So the Ministry of Works personnel already cleared that off, B.E.L. commenced work immediately on restoring electricity. Up to this morning they are still working, some areas are still without electricity. But to say an approximate figure, we don?t have at the moment. We are compiling all the information because it was scattered all over Santa Elena. Mostly Santa Elena and parts of San Ignacio, and some areas in Esperanza.?

The storm also ripped apart a major section of the roof of the Santa Elena Primary School, a designated hurricane shelter. Principal of the school, Manuel Medina, says six classrooms were affected and that many of the children in the middle division are left traumatised as they had to sit through the entire ordeal.

Manuel Medina, Principal, Santa Elena Primary School
?It has affected in a sense that today you see we have not half of the attendance here. Because we have nine hundred and odd children here, right now I could probably say about four hundred are here.?

?Everybody was just frightened they were traumatised. Actually the chaos actually started when the roof started to fly off and the children were getting wet. And the teachers had to use their initiative and to avoid the rain they had to come down and shelter on the veranda of the bottom floor.?

Patrick Jones
?Was anybody injured??

Manuel Medina
?Well that was the good part. That probably God was with us, nobody got hurt, there was no injury.?

Alfonso Cruz, Jr.
?Well people are scared because what they are commenting is that if this storm could have done so much, damage what about a hurricane? So people are in fear right now. But I have noticed that they are talking about trying to secure their houses more, should in case a hurricane should hit us in the future.?

Castellanos says while it looks bad that a designated hurricane shelter sustained major damage from a thunderstorm, residents are assured that the building is safe and that the affected part is a new addition that had not yet undergone inspection and approval by the National Emergency Management Organisation.

Mario Castellanos
?The reason why I believe that we are affected here is this is a newly completed portion of the building. We usually use the lower half of the school, which was not affected in any way. It was only the new part of the building that was affected and we need to find out. I believe that some people are telling me that the board that they nailed the zincs on were too small and that is the reason why that happened. But we need to rectify the situation now. Yesterday we spoke with the principal through the district coordinator and today I just came by to meet with the principal to find out what is happening and what sort of assistance we can try to work out together because we need to get back the building. School is one and so we need to get the building back as soon as possible repaired.?

Alfonso Cruz, Jr.?
?Well at the moment we need a lot of assistance. For instance, we at the Town Council only own one truck right now. And I would like to mention here right now that I would like the cooperation from the Ministry of Works if they could assist with some trucks from the Agriculture Department, especially to do away with the limbs that have been stock piled and need to be dumped at the landfill. So we are calling on anybody in the community who have trucks or trailers if they could assist us so we can clean the town.?

The storm was not selective in its fury. Toppling political signs, uprooting trees, snapping utility poles, and leaving the community traumatised. Perhaps the silver lining in Thursday?s storm is that all the twin towns? residents lived to tell the story of their experience. Patrick Jones, for News Five.

Belize Electricity Limited reported today that about one thousand customers were left without electricity after the storm, but that B.E.L. crews worked until midnight to restore power to most of them. Three hundred customers were still affected today due to downed trees on the lines.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

Advertise Here

You must be logged in to post a comment Login