BELIZE - Indian towns devastated by Hurricane Irisgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
A few days ago NWPHOTOG posted a request for assistance over at Timebomb from someone he knows in Belize
Belize Indian towns devastated by Hurricane Iris
By Julie Watson, Associated Press, 10/12/2001 02:21
BLADEN, Belize (AP) As the rain came down, the assistant mayor of Bladen and his family of nine huddled under a scrap of corrugated metal covering the remains of his living room two walls and a post.
But the 37-year-old official, Margarita Sho, is better off than most in this town of 500. His neighbor's home is a pile of lumber and straw, and there's not an intact house to be seen from the ruins of his own.
Hurricane Iris cut a narrow corridor of devastation across southern Belize late Monday night, and largely Indian communities such as Bladen stood right in the way.
''Ninety-nine percent of the houses have disappeared from these villages,'' said Victor Cal of the Belize Indigenous Training Institute, a vocational education center in Punta Gorda.
The only known deaths occurred on a U.S.-chartered dive boat that capsized on the coast, killing at least 21 people, most of them members of a Richmond, Va., scuba club.
But officials say 13,000 people are homeless and total damage could reach $250 million. Thousands have lost their jobs in the banana and tourism industries.
''Right now, we're just picking up the pieces from the fields to try and rebuild,'' said Sho, whose scrap of metal was salvaged from the litter of lost roofing scattered around the village. ''We're just trying to survive.''
The eye of the hurricane cut through forests of Caribbean pines 100 feet high, creating a corridor of mulch.
The banana plantations that are Bladen's main employers have been turned into fields of stumps.
Tony Zabaneh, chairman of the Banana Growers Association of Independence a nearby village said there likely will be no banana exports for at least nine months. He had to lay off 90 people.
Many of the banana workers are Maya and Garifuna Indians some natives of Belize, others drawn from nearby Central American countries by relatively high wages or pushed here by wars.
Near Bladen, residents, government workers and Belizean officials used chain saws to slash openings in dirt roads to the neighboring Mayan village of Medina that were blocked by toppled trees and debris.
But rebuilding has barely started.
Speaking with a Caribbean accent sprinkled with the sound of her Mayan dialect, Margarita's wife Nicolasa said she hasn't been dry since Iris blasted through her village.
''Our clothes are soaked,'' she said, pointing to a clothes line strung in her roofless home. ''It's been raining on us while we sleep.''
Not far away, women clambered among toppled 50-foot trees to wash their clothes in swollen, chocolate-brown rivers.
Abraham Yam, 29, a sugarcane worker from the Corozal district in northern Belize, drove in Thursday with a truckload of clothes and food.
As he arrived, Mayan women in traditional orange and blue dresses rushed toward him, shouting ''Give me some rice! Give me some rice!''
Yam said Belizeans are depending on one another to survive the disaster. His own village near the Mexican border was unaffected, so residents collected what they could as donations.
On the outskirts of Bladen, Marco Tule Martinez, 36, stood before the remains of a banana field, the stench of rotting fruit piercing the air.
A father of six, Tule said growers were trying to decide what to do about the 200 people who worked the 430-acre field where he has toiled for past nine years.
His house reduced to rubble, Tule has been living in a makeshift shelter of wood scraps in front of the plantation. He said medicine was needed for people who have been developing skin rashes.
Tule, who is from Guatemala, said he hoped the Guatemalan government would get word of the disaster and help compatriots here.
''No matter what our race, we are all suffering,'' he said. ''It's been three days since the hurricane and I think our problems are just starting.''
-- Anonymous, October 12, 2001