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May 28, 2009

Earthquake measuring 7.1 on Richter scale shakes Belize

Story PictureTwo major events dominate the news tonight: a strong earthquake that jolted from the southern to the central region of the country and the state visit of the President of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou. But first, the last time Belizeans experienced any tectonic shifts significant enough to register in memory was on Sunday, August twenty-third, 1998. On that day a tremor measuring five point seven on the Richter scale rocked homes in Belize, even though the epicenter was off the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. But at two-twenty-four this morning Belizeans were awakened to a much stronger quake – whose epicenter was located sixty miles northwest of La Ceiba, Honduras. Fortunately, the seven point one tectonic shift did not cause any deaths locally, but it certainly left many people all shook up. At the break of dawn, Marion Ali flew by chopper south to Monkey River Village, the area which reported the most damage.

Marion Ali, Reporting
From the sky the tiny fishing village of Monkey River in the Toledo District appears normal, but a closer look from ground level quickly reveals the first signs of a phenomenon. Where green grass once stood now sits layers of thick wet mud. Because many of the homes are wooden, infrastructure suffered the most damage. Some of the dwellings were tilted to one side after the soft earth beneath them gave way. While other structures simply could not bear the seismic test of the seven point one quake and crashed violently to the ground. Homes like this one belonging to Malvery Garbutt. She says the structure was eight feet off the ground. Now it is sitting flat ON the ground.

Malvery Garbutt, House Collapsed During Quake
“I hear di dog deh mi di bark and when I come out I hear wah rolling so I look eena di sky and I seh ih can’t be rain. And den ih start to shake and ih shake hard so I tell di pickney dehn get under di table, get under di table cause di house wah bruk down. When we get up when ih stop, we feel just go psshh and start to sink.”

Daniel Castellanos lives in a two storey cement house but even that was not spared as it shifted a few inches from its original location.

Daniel Castellanos, House Shifted
“We was trying to get out from our home and before that the TV stand fall right in our walkway so we could get out. We had to wait until the tremor really passed through. One ah mi lee daughter get traumatized and my wife was very, very frightened and it’s the worst tremor we ever feel here in Monkey River. The house big and everything but yoh feel like yoh deh inna wah lee canoe or something like that the way how the earth move the house, the house feel really small.”

Rosita Coleman, House Collapsed
“When I conscious that dah wah earthquake I get up and start to pray and when I ask my husband weh di children dehn deh, dehn done come outside wid di children deh. Only di downstairs mek di house noh gone down flat. Dat’s all hold it up. Di front part sink down wah lot; yoh could si dat and di porch almost pop off. Di inside ah di house left high and low.”

But what is not low is the spirit of the residents of Monkey River. While his house also crumbled, Jason Garbutt says that with a little help, life will get back to normal.

Jason Garbutt, House Collapsed
“I heard like someone bang on my door and I came out to see open di door and by di time I turn to go back in it start to shake. I try to reach back in the room and it was throwing me all over the place. I shout for my girl and try to wake her cause the kids were still in the bed. That was when I managed to get in and I grab one of them and she grab one and the next two came out.”

Marion Ali
“How high was it?”

Jason Garbutt
“Bout for to five feet high.”

Marion Ali
“And now it’s all the way to the ground.”

Jason Garbutt
“All the way to the ground. I wah need help fi sure wid dat.”

But while houses were crashing to the ground, water from beneath the earth was instead forcing its way upwards.

Michael Williams, Witnessed Well Spurt
“When I mi eena di house, I run out and when I look I hear pow! When I look I si water up dah top ah di well and I run back home. Dat’s I could seh.”

Marion Ali
“How high you would ah seh?”

Michael Williams
“Well, ih come good height doh, bout wah lee twenty feet.”

While the villagers experienced infrastructural damage, everyone is breathing a sigh of relief that no life was lost as a result of the quake. Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

The most urgent need in the village is running water since water supply was interrupted by the earthquake.

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.

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