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Jun 2, 2008

South suffers; Kendal bridge disappears

Story PictureJanelle Chanona
Thanks Marleni. Well believe me what I went through today is nothing compared to what the people of south Stann Creek are going through tonight. Just to give you an idea of the time, Rick and I left Belize City at about eight o’clock this morning and we’ll begin with the shots if Rick go ahead and start rolling the video that we found in Hattieville. This is the area between the Hector Silva Bridge and BWEL Butane Depot.

Marleni Cuellar
Is that a dory?

Janelle Chanona
This guy is on a piece of Styrofoam or something and he’s got a drum. This is the section of the road right before the first set of speed bumps and these are some people making their way across. The vehicular traffic could pass but obviously only certain types of trucks, SUVs. Small cars were having a hard time because even though the water is shallow, it still has a current. So people were being very careful as they made their way across this portion of the road here.

Marleni Cuellar
And the people on the roadside, they were just trying to evacuate their house, they were trying to get to work? What were they doing on the roadside?

Janelle Chanona
Girl, I really couldn’t tell you. it just looked like they were going back and forth. Actually our camera frame will bring in some people who were just taking a swim and having fun. Obviously, the Ministry of Health is not advising this sort of activity. Fast forward now, we go to Middlesex and this is what we find. So we go from a swimming hole to a mud bath. This is why that motorcyclist is trying to get out there because a portion of the road—I’d estimate about twenty to twenty-five feet—gap in the road. A culver is right under here or it used to be and it just completely washed it away. It’s quite incredible and nothing makes you feel more vulnerable than when you get to the edge of the road and you can’t do anything to get across. It was just an incredible scene but this pales in comparison to some of the other images we’re gonna show you tonight. Because we couldn’t get across this gap here, we enlisted the service of a very friendly farmer. I have to say muchos gracias a don Jose Fidencio. This is the shot of the water, if you could imagine that grass being six feet high.

Marleni Cuellar
And that’s the water coming through.

Janelle Chanona
So this is don Jose using his tractor to make sure that we made it across because this is, remember, farm land out here. The mud is alone about five, six feet deep in some portions of this field so we’re just trying to make sure we stay on the higher ground and make it across. Which we did, needless to say, so we could continue our journey and make sure that we bring the rest of what’s happened.

Janelle Chanona
“When did you hear the water coming up?’

Florentino Chen, Mile 25 Resident
“We hear the water coming up bout three o’clock this morning, making a lot of noise. We came out to see what’s happening but it’s blackout, you can’t see almost nothing only with the thunder when it show you the light you could see for a distance.”

Janelle Chanona
“How did you react when you saw this morning?”

Florentino Chen
“We sat and fret because we thought our house was going to be swept out and what not; our family. I start to worry especially me because I have children you know.”

Janelle Chanona
And I have to say a lot of people were totally unprepared for this and while Mister Chen made it out with his family, the same could not be said for the Mark Richie family. This is … their home once stood on those posts and basically, the water hit it and that’s the roof of the house. The water lifted up the house from its foundation there and carried it down where the river was at that point and just slammed it into this citrus orchard. The entire family was inside that home when this was happening. This was in the dead of night. It’s so overwhelming to think what that family must have been going though such a traumatic experience. They had nothing packed; they were totally unprepared for this disaster. They had no warning, they didn’t do anything. This is Mark Richie, his wife Shelda, his fourteen year old daughter Eleanor and his twelve year old son Mark. Their home is just destroyed. This is their pictures. Shelda and Eleanor’s bodies were recovered. They did drown. Mark made it to safety. That’s fourteen year old Eleanor, she was supposed to take the second stage of P.S.E.s this week. Mark Junior is still missing. He is presumed drowned, we’re hoping for him. Up to noon today his body had not been found.

Bedford Ritchie, Flood Victim
“Poor Marky. I sorry fi poor Mark. Ah sorry fi him.”

Janelle Chanona
“Did you hear them, were they asking for help?”

Bedford Ritchie
“No. I couldn’t hear none, none at all, nothing, nothing. The rain was making a whole noise like a truck that is rolling heavy. That’s all you hearing. Like some breeze come, heavy breeze like when hurricane cause I pass through hurricane here. But yoh noh hear nothing.”

Janelle Chanona
Now, that’s Mark’s uncle that lives right across the road and I have to say when he woke up and realised what occurred, he’s already made plans to relocate his house, relocate his home. But for the mean time—because he says the river has shown its power—but for the meantime, the dirty duty at hand is cleaning the house. You could just imagine the dirt and debris and the mud and smell of wet and it’s just so … you don’t know where to begin and these people—so many people—are in this condition.

Earl Sanchez, Flood Victim
“This terrible man, terrible.”

Janelle Chanona
“That could have been you all.”

Earl Sanchez
“All ah wi could ah mi gone. All ah wi could ah mi just gone. But I mi di study it. if I neva mi di study it well den ih could ah be everybody gone cause my kids dah only lone kids and dehn no really know weh fi do. So I tell dehn lets go and we gone up di road and da soh we end up di safe.”

Janelle Chanona
“But as far as safety, do you still feel comfortable living here?”

Earl Sanchez
“No, I noh really feel safe because yoh neva could know when things like this could happen.”

Janelle Chanona
Now, Earl live right beside Mark’s house and he run a juice factory and most of his equipment actually washed up against Mark’s what used to be the front step. That’s an ideal machine that they used to package their fresh juices in. that’s the salesman trying to pick through the debris to try to salvage something of their business. Now we’re going further up the road now and it’s just incredible the erosion. This, basically what happened a river came through here and brought half of the bed with it and dumped into the middle of the highway. So those are actually river bed stones that are strewn across the highway. Some of them are quite big. We managed to … there had been a path there. It’s just; you can imagine what this must have sounded like. That’s a home that had maybe about thirty people in it last night just hold up and it just missed that house.

Shaina Evelyn, Flood Victim
“I mi think I mi wah dead. I just pray di whole time doh, I mi di pray.”

Janelle Chanona
“How many of you all were together?”

Shaina Evelyn
“I can’t even count cause dah lot ah pickney and den my aunty family and fi we family, adopted family. So dah lot ah wi mi deh deh.”

Janelle Chanona
“Everybody bunch up together.”

Shaina Evelyn
“Yeah, and den no way fi sleep because di water flood out di house. Di sofa dehn geh wet, di bed dehn wi have to try put wi clothes dehn pan it so ih noh geh wet. No way fi sleep; we all sit dong and like two o’clock wi tek wah lee nap and when wi get up dah because wi di hear bad news so we come and si di terrible destruction.”

Janelle Chanona
Bad news being what Mark and his family went through. They had to basically dig—you’ll see it in a few minutes—their back door was so full of mud. They had to use a shovel to clean it up so that they could get into their house to start washing it out. Heading further down south now, there’s more debris and rocks in the road. Again, what you’re gonna start seeing here is the water damage—water and asphalt—the power of this river. You could just see if you start looking, chunks ripped out. It’s really … it really took your breath away and you have to think that what if somebody had been on the road while this was happening, not conscious of what was happening. Again, those are the same river stones that are strewn against the road because of the way how the creek wraps around this community; it just kinda zigzags in between and people have their houses on either side. This is just a horrible scene to wake up to. It’s one thing to imagine it in the darkness and when the light come this is what people were seeing. Lots of standing water and one of the damages, the significant damages, is going to be to the agriculture in this. A lot of trees uprooted, obviously this water, standing water again more erosion, just big rips. This is perhaps so incredible; just a tiny strip of pavement, just enough for the vehicles our size to pass. This looks like somebody took two big bites out of the highway, so incredible. Again, where the culverts were, for some reason I don’t know if they’re more vulnerable—the areas of the highway that have these culverts—but it just … I can’t believe this guy is gonna walk out there. He sees how this just looks like it would go any minute. The ministry, I have to say, they were on the ball pretty soon setting up hazards to make people knew that this obstruction was there. While we were there also, the ministry had already began to dump material in this area so that they can begin to fill up this portion of the highway and when we were coming home they had a bit of progress so the strip was a little bit wider but obviously, motorists have to be very careful over the next couple days using the Stann Creek Valley road to get down south.

This is the Citrus Growers Association nursery. Obviously, they got a lot of damage. I was also told that some of their vehicles were floating away. That was another thing we saw a lot of today, Marleni, a lot of vehicles that were parked in one spot last night were in a totally different spot this morning just to show you the amount of the water that just carried them. This is coming in. we’re heading towards Hope Creek and these are some more citrus orchards. This is … we’ve turned off now and we’re heading towards the I.T.VET. This was set up as a shelter. We were told that approximately two hundred were brought to the shelter but most of them, by the time we got there, had been relocated either by family or had decided to start moving back to their homes.

Carmen Young, Flood Victim
“Everybody get caught off guard, everybody. Well, lucky thing I had a boat in the yard and my two sons they tried and got the boat and that is what we rendered for ourselves. Then from there we came, we were trying to get over to my son who lives on the other side but we couldn’t and while going a lady was in the water and a little girl was in the tree and we capture them deh.”

Janelle Chanona
“So you know if there was anybody that lost their life?”

Carmen Young
“Just a friend Philbert Roches, he lost his son. When he was putting up his son on top of the house top his son slip out of his hand. So I think that is the only one around here.”

Janelle Chanona
So many of these stories are just so heart wrenching and it was so hard not to be overwhelmed and overcome by the emotion of this even if you didn’t lose a loved one.

Carmelita Castellanos, Flood Victim
“Dah wah sad ting because dah just sudden one dis flood come and wen we do fi come out di wata rise way up. Wen my husband look fi come out wata ker he. Now me one stay my two daughters. I gat mi lee gial nine years and fourteen. I try hold dehn but when I reach inna di flood ih haul off mi clothes, everything. Each one ah wi tek dehn. I seh my pickney dehn gone, I done lose dehn. But mi lee gial fight fi ih life and ih catch up pan wah tree and ih all dig up but ih fight fi ih life. And di next one, she fight fi ih life right yah catch up pan wah tree. Dis same young bwai weh gone een deh, he save me because I done get weak, I couldn’t do nothing more. Di bwai he gone, he save mi, he tek mi and shub me up pan di tree because I naked, all mi clothes come off. Di gial come and put wah clothes pan mi and wi stay right deh until morning, until dehn come and dehn tek wi out. Now wi can’t go inna di house, di house step gone.”

Janelle Chanona
“So what you wah do inna di meantime?”

Carmelita Castellanos
“Well, wi need help. Wi need help; wi noh have wah sheet, we noh have nothing. Everything wet. Mattress, everything noh good, no clothes.”

Janelle Chanona
This is another one of her neighbours. She’s showing us how she spent the night last night.

Marleni Cuellar
She stayed in her house?

Janelle Chanona
“Dah up yah you mi deh?”

Brenda Linares, Flood Victim
“Yeah, right up yah.”

Janelle Chanona
“And yoh had yoh two kids with yoh?”

Brenda Linares
“Mi two grandbaby dehn, I had dehn right pan di side yah so and mi daughter and mi next son deh catch pan di door.”

Janelle Chanona
“Weh mi di go through your mind when dis di happen?”

Brenda Linares
“I di wonder because out deh soh neva look nothing nice. All weh we think bout dah fi just float top ah di refridge or try si if we could get top ah one ah dehn tree because di wata mi soh high that all weh yoh think dah just noh mek di light go out because if een yah dark and out deh dark dah weh we wah do. Dah mi wah terrible disaster.”

Janelle Chanona
And these incredible stories of survival but look at this, this is sludge in this woman’s house. These people are going to be in immediate need of assistance and attention. That’s a container truck size delivery truck that’s completely overturned. That’s what the water did with it. I have to say when I’m in the market for a next vehicle I’m gonna buy a tractor because that was the only thing that made today possible for so many people just getting in and out of these areas. It was about the only thing that got through. This is the road into Sittee. We didn’t need a tractor here but we just had to take our time again because of the lots of standing water. Again, just very depressing scenes of what people woke up to this morning and very sad scenes because we did confirm that somebody from Sittee died.

Pinky Andrews, Flood Victim
“The guy that was going for a dory to save my children them, the water get too high for him so he start coming back and then the water just back him weh and I make to grab for him and I just missed him and he just stuck under the house and that just broke me down and I started to cry because …”

Janelle Chanona
“He drowned right in front of you?”

Pinky Andrews
“Yes, right in front of me he just stuck underneath the house bottom. The house bottom was like almost twelve feet to fifteen, that was how high the water was.”

Janelle Chanona
“What’s his name?”

Pinky Andrews
“His name was Alvin McNab.”

Janelle Chanona
Actually, while we were there, Alvin’s sister had the grim task of identifying her loved one because they had just discovered his body, he was all tangled in the flood water and again that woman was saying that she got separated from her children by the water and Alvin had actually come to her aid to say I’m gonna help you save your kids. So the kids are fine but Alvin lost his life. He was being taken to the morgue by residents of Sittee. These are more shots of Sittee. We didn’t actually go as far down into the community but this is just to give you and idea of what the residents there are experiencing and I have to say throughout the day today it was constant rain; not hard rain but steady rain.

Marleni Cuellar
These are some very powerful images and you’re very right when you say that it’s hard to watch in the first place because you can only imagine what they were experiencing.

Janelle Chanona
Exactly, and look at this. I caught this on the radio today and I couldn’t imagine it. I had to see it.

Marleni Cuellar
This is Kendal.

Janelle Chanona
This is the bridge scene where it used to be. These are people that have come from Silkgrass, from Dangriga because they couldn’t imagine it either. It’s like how could this big bridge wash away?

Marleni Cuellar
The power of the water.

Janelle Chanona
You really walk away with a respect of what Mother Nature can do, of what water can do. And the police were making sure that they were marking clearly that there was no access beyond north of that scene. It was just unbelievable. You had to really come to terms with that and just all the debris that was piled up. I can’t imagine just the swath, the water that had just lain waste in so many areas and then just claim this bridge like it was a house of cards or something, just knocked it clean. You couldn’t even see any remnants of the bridge in the immediate area. It’s not even like it had just pushed it further, it just wiped it away, just washed it away completely. I think that’s all.

Marleni Cuellar
That’s as far as you all could go.

Janelle Chanona
Yeah, we couldn’t … we had heard stories that people were using canoes but obviously, as you could see the current was terrible and it’s so easy to misjudge “oh I can do that it’s not that far” but then you get in a situation and then you panic. But I have to make sure that I thank everybody who assisted us today. I have to thank all the people that came forward and said you know Janelle, normally I wouldn’t talk pan TV but we need help and so many people underscore the need for shelter, for food, for water. One of the things that I know doesn’t often make it into our disaster response but I think many people are going to need I think mental relief because so many people are traumatized by not even if they didn’t experience it for themselves but sitting in your house alone.

Marleni Cuellar
The close encounter with the loss of life and potential dangers that they themselves faced. And there’s a lot of recovery that will have to be made within each individuals lives whether it’s relocating at the end of the day or whether it will be to pick up the pieces of what is left.

Janelle Chanona
And believe me the road to recovery is going to be a long and very rough one. Again, I’d like to ask motorists and everybody, if you don’t have to be on the road don’t use it. We would hate to have this tragedy compounded by another accident. Please, if you have to be on the road, please be very careful. It is still raining, it is slippery. Even if it’s not in that part of the country, please be careful and please pray for these people and help them if you can. They need clothes, warm food. If you can maybe make a meal and drive as far as you can go and give it to somebody who is in need. We really need to come together on this and help each other. I know there’s a lot of people in need but please just …

Marleni Cuellar
And the relief efforts are already starting to get on the way so we have to keep a good ear out as to how we can help out.


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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