Hurricane Iris relief continues
The death toll from Hurricane Iris is now 21, with two more bodies recovered Thursday (Oct. 11) from a dive boat that capsized during the storm off the coast of Belize. Seventeen of the people killed by the hurricane on Oct. 8 were passengers aboard the boat and members of a Richmond, Va. dive club. Iris caused severe damage in Belize and Guatemala and left up to 14,000 people homeless.
The Category 4 hurricane, bearing winds of 145 mph, slammed through a portion of southern Belize on Monday, destroying entire villages, resorts and farms. The MV Wave Dancer, a U.S.-chartered tourist boat with 28 people aboard, was moored in the bay of Big Creek, about 80 miles south of Belize City. During the storm, the 120-foot boat was yanked into the air and flipped. Local reports indicate that the boat sank immediately.
Of the 20 Richmond divers on the chartered boat trip to Belize, only three survived. The Greater Richmond Chapter of the Red Cross met with members of the Richmond Dive Club and their families the day after the disaster to provide mental health counseling and determine financial needs.
"Our chapter is prepared to assist with funeral expenses, transportation of family members to the services, and transportation of the victims from Belize to Virginia," said Heath K. Rada, CEO of the Richmond Red Cross chapter. "We are also contacting the three Richmond Dive Club survivors who flew back to Virginia this week, and offering counseling and financial assistance."
The hurricane weakened after making landfall in Belize and headed into the mountains of Guatemala, where it damaged more than 500 homes.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Federation) responded immediately to the disaster. The Belize Red Cross, supported by assistance from other Red Cross societies, set up shelters and provided food to more than 7,000 people during and after the storm. Red Cross volunteers are distributing tarps, food parcels and tents to the families left homeless.
The American Red Cross sent a five-member team of international disaster response workers to assess damage and provide additional assistance and resources.
Initial reports indicate severe crop damage, and a need for food, clean water and shelter. Iris destroyed more than 95 percent of buildings in 35 villages and severely damaged infrastructure, including roads, electricity and water supplies.
The Federation has launched a preliminary appeal for funds to support a Belize Red Cross relief operation for 4,800 people in the worst-affected villages of Toledo District, in southern Belize. The funds will be used to provide shelter materials, food, blankets, kitchen sets, hygiene articles and jerry cans.
Many of the inhabitants of this area are substinence farmers with very little income under normal circumstances. They have no resources to fall back on in times of disaster, according to Red Cross leaders in Belize.
"It is absolutely essential for us to provide enough food to tide them over until the next harvest, in early 2002," said John Humphreys, head of the damage assessment team for the Federation. "We also need to make sure they are well protected from the elements, since the rainy season is not over."
The Federation and the Belize Red Cross are coordinating relief efforts with the Belize government and humanitarian agencies such as Oxfam and the Pan American Health Organization.
All American Red Cross disaster assistance is provided at no cost, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. The Red Cross also supplies nearly half of the nation's lifesaving blood. This, too, is made possible by generous voluntary donations. To help the victims of disaster, you may make a secure online credit card donation or call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669) or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Or you may send your donation to your local Red Cross or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. To donate blood, please call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE (1-800-448-3543), or contact your local Red Cross to find out about upcoming blood drives.
=A9 Copyright 2001 The American National Red Cross. All Rights Reserved.