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Aug 20, 2001

San Pedro readies for Chantal

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With images of Hurricane Keith all too vivid in the memories of most Belizeans, few people were taking chances with a tropical storm named Chantal. As I speak, the centre of Chantal, born last week to the east of Barbados, is just now making landfall somewhere near the Belize Mexico border at Ambergris Caye. At six p.m. her location was at latitude eighteen point two north, longitude eighty-seven point eight west, or forty miles east south east of Chetumal. But while seventy mile per hour winds are nothing to laugh at, the peculiar shape of Chantal has most of those winds and accompanying rain well to the north and east of that centre. So at its worst Chantal should deal northern Belize only a glancing blow. Still, nobody could blame residents of the cayes for seeking safer harbour. News 5′s Janelle Chanona and cameraman Rick Romero headed to San Pedro this morning to see how the town was coping. They managed to catch the last plane off the island in time to file the following report.

Patty Arceo, Area Rep., Belize Rural South

“Another disaster, hurricane or even tropical storm coming to our shores, the third one, I don’t think, it will be hard for us to get up back again.”

Janelle Chanona

“The panic here is almost tangible as Chantal continues to threaten Belize. Her impending arrival has prompted a mass exodus to higher ground.”

Patty Arceo

“I don’t think anybody, just like us, is taking this or giving this minor considerations. As of Saturday morning we were already seeing people bolting up their house, already mobilising, packing up their things, going to the stores, getting to their batteries, their little radios, their little flashlights and getting ready.”

But the speed of the storm still caught some people off guard.

Reef Radio Announcer

“This is a very important announcement to all the folks who had planned to used the water taxi services: both the San Pedro Water Taxi Association and Thunderbolt services have stopped their runs out of the island. So this means that you will no longer be able to use them to get out of the island.”

The National Emergency Management Organisation in San Pedro estimates that approximately five thousand San Pedranos and tourists left the island on Sunday by sea and air. And by Monday midday, another fifteen hundred had departed. These people were the last to leave by boat meaning anyone left behind would have to tough it out at home or in the hurricane shelter.

Gilbert Espat, Fisherman

“With this weather I had to tek out all me family, send them da Corozal and I da the one whe stay.”

Janelle Chanona

“Why did you decide to stay?”

Gilbert Espat

“Well you know I have my lee house and last time after the hurricane lot a lee things start to missing. So right now I try secure what I could, but we can’t do better so we have to stay here pan the island.”

Area representative Patty Arceo says both Caye Caulker and San Pedro are ready for the high tides. She credits the level of preparation that has been reached to this year’s NEMO exercises.

Janelle Chanona

“The people who have decided to stay say they are keeping their fingers crossed, preparing for the worse but hoping for the best. Reporting from San Pedro, I’m Janelle Chanona for News 5.”


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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