A state of emergency was declared by the Prime Minister of Belize on Wednesday, October 9, 2001 after Hurricane Iris made landfall affecting a significant portion of the communities on the southern coast. The districts of Stann Creek and Toledo have been declared as disaster areas. Approximately 19, 880 persons were displaced with 22 deaths being recorded while 8 persons were reported missing.
72% affected with significant damage in Stann Creek and Toledo Districts.
Over 5 000 acres of bananas, 3 000 acres of rice, 3 000 of corn, all stored corn, 500 acres of cacao, some citrus and all plantains, 35 acres of hot peppers and all root crops and vegetables in the affected villages have been destroyed. Losses in cattle appear to be minimal but significant losses in small stock such as local chickens, sheep and pigs are expected. Shrimp farms mostly those near Placencia and Independence suffered from seepage of contaminated water that may cause damages up to 25% of their production. A more accurate assessment of the damages is not available as yet but estimates are in the vicinity of $75-80 million. To a large extent the damages to the Agricultural Sector has been due to the strength of the wind and so much from heavy rainfall or flooding.
Ninety percent (90 %) of the tourist accommodation facilities on the Placencia Peninsula which includes Seine Bight, were significantly damaged by the storm. In addition there was almost total destruction of bridges, piers and dive shops on the Peninsula, which service these facilities.
In addition damages to the Mayan community archaeological sites and the environment have been reported.
Initial reports have stated that significant environmental damage has occured which includes severe beach erosion and damages to mangroves, littoral and broadleaf forests. The latter will impact on the timber industry.
Of greater concern however is the loss of environmental services (hydrological regulation, soil cover, wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, tourism attraction etc.,) which the once extensive forest cover provided.
The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) activated all committees, including the Foreign Assistance Committee. The Ministry of Health distributed rapid needs assistance forms.
Belize Red Cross Societies mobilized volunteers to work in the management of shelters and to assist in the evacuation operations. All shelters were evacuated nationwide at noon on Tuesday.
The Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) has deployed a representative to provide assistance to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and coordinate the overall response effort.
CDERA has also liaised with donors and partners to garner support for the Government and people of Belize during their time of crisis. See table below for the list of known pledges both regional and international.
The United Nations Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) consisting of PAHO/WHO, UNICEF and UNDP is coordinating the humanitarian response.
PAHO/WHO has moved to Belmopan and is working closely with the Ministry of Health.
A number of international donors have pledged assistance as shown below in the list of pledges.
Initial emergency needs have been identified as follows:
- Shelter and roofing materials
- Emergency supplies (food, personal care and household kits)
- Portable water
The CDERA Coordinating Unit will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as necessary.