Hurricane Dean made landfall approximately 60 miles north of Belize’s border with Mexico very early on 21 August . The category 5 hurricane had winds of 165 mph. Particularly hard hit with the districts of Corozal and Orange Walk as well as the Cayes (Corozal Town is still without electricity). The National Emergency Management Organization reports that more than 1,000 homes were damaged, with 318 destroyed.
Hurricane Dean damaged roofs, uprooted trees, downs power lines, interrupted communications and the water supply. Major public roads were not damaged. The agricultural sector appears to be the most affected, with damage to papaya and sugar cane crops. People in vulnerable communities along the coast and Cayes evacuated voluntarily. The Ministry of Health estimates that 20,000 people were directly affected by the storm, but no major health concerns have been reported to date.
Currently, there have been no reports of medical emergencies or fatalities attributed to Hurricane Dean. Isolated flooding in Corozal and San Pedro may present potential vector, food and water borne problems. The Corozal Community Hospital is running on a generator. This is a cause for concern if the demand for services increases. The Emergency Hospital in Orange Walk Town developed major leaking problems as the storm passed. Plans were implemented for immediate relocation in order to have minimal interruption of services. Two health centers in Corozal and Orange Walk also experience water damage but remain functional.
The Ministry of Health activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and implemented preparedness and response activities in close coordination with the District Health Teams. Assessment teams were deployed to the impacted area and an aerial assessment of the area was conducted when the “all clear” was given. Health sector interventions have been focusing on the prevention of acute respiratory infections, vector, food and water borne diseases. PAHO/WHO has worked closely with the Ministry of Health team within the EOC and in conducting the immediate assessment after the storm.
An UNDAC team was pre-positioned in Belize and has been working closely with the National Damage and Needs Assessment Committee. The US Southern Command, based in Honduras, has offered assistance and the Ministry of Health has accepted a primary health care team.
Regional Office of the World Health Organization