Belize - Hurricane Keith Fact Sheet #3, Fiscal Year (FY) 2000

from US Agency for International Development
Published on 05 Oct 2000


Keith has regained hurricane strength. The National Hurricane Center reported that at 1000 hours (CDT), the center of Hurricane Keith was located about 20 miles east-northeast of Tampico, Mexico.

Keith is moving toward the northwest at about 12 mph. On this track, Keith would make landfall between Tampico and La Presca this afternoon.

Maximum sustained winds are near 90 mph with higher gusts. Little change in strength is expected before landfall.

A hurricane warning is in effect along the Mexican coast from Tuxpan to Matamoros. A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch are in effect south of Tuxpan to Veracruz, and a tropical storm watch remains in effect south of Veracruz to Coatzacoalcos.


The most severe damage resulting from Hurricane Keith occurred in northern Belize, particularly on the northern barrier islands of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye. No official statistics are available as of yet, but initial reports indicate that numerous houses in the northern cayes have suffered significant structural damage. Residents who are unable to return to their homes are presently being accommodated in National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) emergency shelters or in the homes of family members and neighbors. Many people have already left emergency shelters and returned home.

On October 4, the Government of Belize’s Ministry of Finance (MOF) reported its initial estimates of losses due to hurricane damage. The MOF estimates $45 million of losses in agriculture and $100 million of losses in tourism. Initial estimates of damage to infrastructure, including roads, bridges, drains, utility poles, and buildings (not including residences), is $55 million.

The Belize River, which flows southeast from the Belize City airport, is continuing to rise due to heavy rains inland. Although the area near the river is sparsely populated, there are people living in the low-lying alluvial plain who may be in danger of floods.


The Nicaraguan disaster management agency, the National System for Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Response, reported on October 4 that 596 households (about 3,000 individuals) have suffered damage to their houses, including 160 houses that were totally destroyed. These figures may rise, as the Nicaraguan Red Cross has not yet completed assessments of more inaccessible areas along the hard-hit Pacific Coast. Displaced persons are being housed in emergency shelters, although many have already been able to return to their homes.

There has been no rain in Nicaragua during the past two days and none is expected today.

U.S. Government Response


There is now a 12-person Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART)/Ground Operations (GO) Team on the ground. The DART/GO Team is supported by Department of Defense (DOD) SOUTHCOM-provided assets, including one Chinook (CH-47) and two Blackhawk (UH-60) helicopters for assessments and delivery of relief items, and six support personnel (in addition to the helicopter crews) to assist with distribution of relief supplies.

USAID/BHR/OFDA-provided relief supplies, including 80 rolls of plastic sheeting, 1,000 wool blankets, 1,000 five-gallon collapsible water jugs, 1,008 hygiene kits, and various medical supplies, were consigned to NEMO on October 4. Today, NEMO plans to distribute these commodities to affected populations on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. The Chinook helicopter will be used to transport these supplies, and members of the DART/GO Team from Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue will assist NEMO with the distribution and use of plastic sheeting for emergency shelter. The DART/GO Team is awaiting the results of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) initial assessment of emergency health needs (which should be available by the end of the day) before distributing the hygiene kits and medical supplies.

On October 4, one Blackhawk helicopter transported DART/GO Team members and U.S. Embassy officials to conduct an aerial damage assessment of the northern barrier islands and north coast of Belize. They overflew Caye Caulker, Ambergris Caye and San Pedro, Corozal, Orange Walk, and the northern Highway back to Belize City. The team confirmed extensive, but minor, damage to structures in the cayes. They found that 85-90 percent of houses had sustained minor roof damage. Approximately 1,000 people live on Caye Caulker and 7,000 people on Ambergris Caye.

The second Blackhawk overflew the area southwest of Belize City and transported the DART/GO Team Leader, along with the U.S. Ambassador, other DART/GO Team members, and U.S. Embassy officials, to Belmopan, Belize’s capital. The team met with NEMO officials to discuss assessment information and projected relief needs, and to coordinate relief activities.

The DART/GO Team is coordinating closely with PAHO, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Relief Agency, the World Food Program, and the American Red Cross. These agencies are working together to determine emergency needs in health, water/sanitation, and shelter.


The USAID/BHR/OFDA assessment team, USAID/Managua, and officials from the Nicaraguan disaster management agency, the National System for Disaster Prevention, Mitigation and Response, recommended that the $25,000 in disaster assistance funds provided on October 4 by USAID/BHR/OFDA be used for the local purchase of food, including rice, beans, sugar, oil, salt, and corn. The recent rains, following a prolonged drought in Nicaragua, have contributed to a loss of food supplies and food insecurity for affected populations. This relief food would supplement an ongoing longer-term USAID/Managua food security program.

On October 5, the assessment team is traveling to affected areas along the Pacific Coast, including Chinandega, Leon, and Nagarote, to verify priority emergency needs and the numbers and whereabouts of affected people.


After a long holding pattern offshore, Hurricane Keith made landfall over southeastern Mexico and northeastern Belize on the morning of October 1. At its peak, Hurricane Keith was a category four hurricane with winds up to 135 mph, which led to heavy rains over Belize, Mexico and the rest of Central America.

The U.S. Ambassador to Belize declared a disaster in response to the hurricane on October 2. USAID/BHR/OFDA responded with $25,000 to meet immediate relief needs.

The U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua declared a disaster on October 3, requesting $25,000 to assist victims of Hurricane Keith. USAID/BHR/OFDA responded on October 4 by providing the requested $25,000. The Government of Nicaragua has requested relief commodities, including blankets, mattresses, food, plastic sheeting, and water jugs.



Ambassadors Disaster Fund

Relief Commodities and Transport

2 Blackhawks, 1 Chinook, 16 Crew ($197,000 per DOD)




Ambassadors Disaster Fund


Total USAID Contribution for Hurricane Keith

Total USG Contribution for Hurricane Keith

j/Ops Center Response Management Team/Hurricane Keith-Belize 10-2000