Hurricane Dean: A Visit to Mahahual
Posted by Tony & Cheri on August 24, 2007
We’re pretty tired. We left at 8:00 am this morning, and it is now almost midnight. It was a round trip of about 350 miles from here to Mahahual. But before we went to bed tonight, people needed to hear and see what happened down there.
For those that don’t know, Mahahual is a small village on the Costa Maya about 175 miles south of Playa del Carmen. A beautiful little pueblo, it has been hailed as the perfect Caribbean paradise. Unfortunately, it is also where one of the strongest hurricanes in history, Hurricane Dean, came ashore three days ago. It has been isolated since then. The information that has come out of Mahahual has been very bad. Locals here in Mexico decided it was time to find out how bad and to offer what help we could.
This morning, a varied group of Playa del Carmen locals (Mexican, American, Israeli, Dutch and English) headed down the coast in a convoy with five truckloads of relief supplies for Mahahual. We weren’t sure what to expect, so we loaded our best guesses: water, rice, toilet paper, sanitary napkins, diapers, milk, clothing, etc. The entire thing was organized by the incredible Claudia, a volunteer EMT for Cruz Roja and long-time Playa resident.
When we got to Mahahual, we were stunned. Most of the buildings in this small village had been destroyed. Those that are still standing are incredibly damaged. This was, after, the third strongest hurricane in history, and the little pueblo of Mahahual was right on the beach. We were incredibly surprised that no relief effort had yet reached them. We were the first. The Mexican Army was there and had set up a great soup kitchen, but their primary task was to open the roads and clear debris from public areas. The Army was itself isolated, and we ended up offering food and water to them, which they graciously accepted.
The people of Mahahual are an incredible inspiration. They thanked us profusely for the assistance we brought. They calmly lined up to accept our donations. No one tried to take more than they needed; no one tried to hoard materials. When people had received food, water and clothing sufficient for their needs, they always stepped aside for the next person.
We are talking about families, children, even babies living in shattered homes which no longer provide shelter, with no power, fresh water, plumbing, food or access to the outside world.
The Army unfortunately is being pulled out on Saturday to go to other areas hit hard by Hurricane Dean. Mahahual will be left to its own devices and to the generosity of other people. The incredible Claudia is doing her best to get Red Cross to come into the area as quickly as possible, but resources are strained.
Playa del Carmen locals, visitors and hotels are donating as much as they can. On the paypal account we’ve set up for Mahahual relief, we’ve currently received $2324 US.. Tomorrow 100% of that money will be spent purchasing more supplies in Playa del Carmen to take down to Mahahual. In addition, our friends at the Hotel La Tortuga in Playa del Carmen have amassed an incredible amount of goods and will be convoying them down by truck on Saturday. We will be joining that convoy with many others, trying to get supplies as quickly as possible to the needy. Any contribution that any of you can make to paypal will go directly to purchasing supplies that will go directly into the hands of displaced families within the next few days.
How badly are things needed? One man asked if we had a shirt, since he had only one shirt left after the hurricane, and he had already worn it nonstop for four days. We stopped people from filling water bottles with rancid swamp water and offered them fresh water in bottles. Francisco, the chef at the soup kitchen, thanked us profusely when we gave him what we had and said they could really use some eggs, rice, beans, cooking oil, and large pots and spoons, as he was trying to feed 200 people at every meal with little or no supplies. Men with hands bleeding from hauling debris thankfully accepted the gloves that we brought. Mothers asked for milk and diapers, and we gave what we could until we ran out. The doctor who came down to work for free with no help and no end in sight simply asked if we had something to sleep on besides the floor. We found a sleeping bag. When we go back on Saturday, we’ll bring him a cot. And it was impossible to miss the babies and children playing in the rubble.
Anything you can offer: $5, $10…whatever…will put food and supplies directly in thd hands of someone who needs it. And it is not just Mahahual. The nearby town of Limones and the surrounding area have many people who need food, water and shelter supplies as soon as possible. As we take our next convoy down on Saturday, we will be stopping in as many places and as many homes as we can.
Thanks to all of you who have helped and will help in this time of need. Muchas gracias a todo. When you get to Playa del Carmen, the Luna Blue owes you many thanks…and a margarita. We’re going to get some sleep. If we have a chance, we’ll post tomorrow. Otherwise, we’ll post a blog entry when we return from Mahahual on Saturday.