My family's hurricane terror
Published 22/08/2007 | 08:02
A Belize man based in Northern Ireland has spoken of his fear for his family's safety after they were caught in the path of the devastating Hurricane Dean.
Melvin Flores (38) said he felt helpless as he stayed on the phone to his father, mother and sister for eight hours while winds of up to 150mph battered their home thousands of miles away.
The journalist, who has lived in Derry for two years, said all he could do was "sit and pray " that his family would not be hurt.
"I had been tracking the path of the hurricane since August 14, and was hoping it would avoid Belize," he said.
"The country has been hit before, but not so much as the Caribbean. It has been spared, but this time, they were not so lucky."
Up to 6,000 people were evacuated from Belize's main tourist resort following weather warnings.
The hurricane struck Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula near the border with Belize, bringing strong winds and lashing rain.
"They were terrified, because we are talking about a category five hurricane which is the most destructive, " he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I was able to speak to them on the phone while the storm hit, which lasted approximately eight hours.
"I was praying that nothing would happen to them.
"It was not the best feeling as I was so far away and there was nothing I could do."
Mr Flores said luckily his family were not hurt.
But their home, which is based in the northern town of Orangewalk, was left damaged.
"My mum and dad are well, but I don't know the exact extent of damage to their home, but they have survived and they are okay.
"They have a wooden colonial house, and that got a battering.
" They took precautions to try and secure it.
"But I am very relieved because they are not injured. That kind of stuff can come again, but life is only once," he said.
Mr Flores added that it is still too early to assess the overall damage to the country which was a former British colony.
"Alerts had begun at the weekend, so many people were preparing to be hit, but many refused to leave.
" There was a lot of fear about how much devastation the hurricane would leave," he said.
"When it hit Jamaica it wasn't at that strength, it was category 4, and it left devastation.
"It is estimated there was a lot of damage done to crops, as Belize has a strong agricultural base," he added.
"So far it is too early to get a complete assessment of the damage and no deaths have been reported, which is a good thing."
However Mr Flores said he does hope to visit Belize in the near future.
"The extent of the damage, will determine when I will go back. But I hope to see my family soon."