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Oct 15, 2001

Monkey River copes with near total destruction

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The last time Jacqueline Woods visited Monkey River, in 1998, it was to report on the erosion, which had mysteriously robbed the village of its once formidable beach. This time around, the people of Monkey River have lost more than just sand…and are lucky to be holding on to their lives.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

It may have taken Hurricane Iris just over an hour to pass across Monkey River Village. But, for those residents who decided to stay and weather the storm in the Community Centre, it was sheer terror as they desperately tried to secure themselves.

Nelda Garbutt, Resident, Monkey River Village

“Men and women get plywood hold it to the window so that the water don’t come in. Then the men had to get up and tie the front door. They cut one of the switch in the place and they tack it on the two sides and hold it when the wind shift from the south-east.”

Eleanor Sandlin, Chairperson, Monkey River Village

“Everybody is homeless. When we say homeless, they don’t have clothes…we’re getting a lot of clothes, so that it kinds of balancing out. But there is no beds, no chairs no nothing; not even a place to put it if we had it. People are just digging among the rubbles, just trying to find a plate, a pot, whatever they could find to cook in. We couldn’t even use the wood to cook because that was wet. I have never seen disaster like this.”

As Hurricane Iris blew over the area, it took everything in its path. The storm flattened most of the infrastructure in the village and totally destroyed its economy.

Mario Muschamp, Vice Chairman, Monkey River Village

“Fifteen years at least. It could be more, but not less than fifteen years because we have lost everything, the jungle that we were depending on for tourism and fishing industry is like nil right now. Until we can get those back on track, then we will start to come back.”

Eleanor Sandlin

“There are no homes and everybody is homeless. We are all living wherever we can in the shelter. We’re making makeshift houses, we sleep in water when it rains, we wake up in water when it rains.”

Following the passage of hurricane Iris there was no immediate assistance. On Tuesday, the first supplies arrived bringing water and food to the community.

Mario Muschamp

“The first help was from, I think between DEMO P.G. and TIDE, those were the first to reach here. After that, Mrs. Patty Arceo all the way from San Pedro.”

Both the government and the opposition have been working to help rebuild Monkey River. Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition, says because the hurricane victims will not have the resources to pay back whatever loans may be given, he hopes donor agencies will be understanding.

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

You have to feel and you have to hope that the aid that will come from the international community will not just be in kind, but that there will be cash grants that will allow people to be able to rebuild their homes. Because obviously, you start talking about loans, no matter how generous the repayment terms might be, it’s going to be impossible for them to in fact earn enough money to service loans.

The villagers have been combing through the debris to find their household items that were lost in the one hundred and forty mile per hour storm.

Jacqueline Woods

“We are standing next to what used to be your house, what have you been able to find so far?”

Kendrick Williams, Policeman, Monkey River Village

“At this time I’ve located one gas tank and a TV stand, I haven’t located anything else.”

Jacqueline Woods

“Residents say despite the fact that ninety-five percent of their community was destroyed and it will take them several years to recover, they are not discouraged, but have become even more determined to rebuild Monkey River Village.”

Eleanor Sandlin

“This is a very nice tight-knit community, more family oriented. Just about everyone is related somewhere on somehow and I think that’s what makes it nice. Even the children, with all the problems that they have they’re still upbeat, still laughing. We know that the weeks to come are going to be worse than this week, because right now people are coming, they are seeing people from outside, so we know. But next week and the week after when that starts to die down and reality hits home, that’s when people are going to start get the feeling of depression, frustration and aggravation. And we hope by then we can give them something else to lift them up.”

Reporting for News 5, Jacqueline Woods.

By the time our news team had left the village residents had already constructed the first of what will hopefully be many new houses.

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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