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Missionary sends good report after storm


MERIDA, Mexico (BP)–A Southern Baptist missionary in the Yucatan Peninsula reported that the Mexican government appears well-organized in meeting the immediate needs of residents after Hurricane Dean became the third most intense storm in history to strike in the Atlantic region.

Homer Hawthorne reported that the pastors of Baptist churches in Chetumal visited their members’ homes after the storm passed in order to assess needs.

“All the members are well with the exception of loss of material things. Several of [them] lost all they had and many lost the roofs to their houses. Others had up to two feet of water in their houses,” Hawthorne wrote to International Mission Board officials Aug. 21.

In Merida, where Hawthorne lives, strong wind gusts were accompanied by sunshine once Dean passed the peninsula and headed for the central coast of Mexico, where it hit as a Category 2 hurricane. The storm had first made landfall in a sparsely populated region Tuesday as a Category 5, the strongest since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

“At this time we don’t have electricity and are running a fan and computer on a generator,” Hawthorne wrote from Merida. “… We talked several times through the night and early this morning with our Baptist folks in Chetumal. They didn’t have electricity but phone service. Then again this afternoon we talked with them by phone after they were able to get out of their houses.”

Hawthorne said the federal and state governments in Mexico are well organized, having brought in truckloads of relief materials three to seven days before the hurricane hit. The government reportedly is distributing mattresses, blankets, food packets and roofing sheets to residents of Chetumal.


“There are 1,500 to 2,000 soldiers deployed for security and distribution of relief,” the missionary reported. “Along with them there are two medical teams with 19 making up a team for the state of Quintana Roo and 23 for the southern part of the state of Yucatan.”

Teams had been dispatched to restore electricity to the hard-hit areas, and Hawthorne received word that all electricity would be working again within days. He added that many residents are without landline telephone service but their cell phones are working.

Hawthorne said the cities receive most of the attention after a natural disaster, so he and other workers were evaluating the needs in rural areas.

“Hopefully we can coordinate our efforts well with the government and fill in the gaps within our possibilities,” he wrote.

One example of those efforts happened when Hawthorne was checking on a coastal fishing area on the peninsula after the storm.

“A lot of hungry people were found,” he said. “So food packets were sent to two fishing villages in the state of Yucatan this morning. They have not been able to fish nor sell their last catch before the hurricane came in and many are without food in their homes. Hopefully this week they can return to their fishing.”

Hawthorne said he planned to distribute water on his next trip to the fishing villages, and after the initial assessments were complete he and other workers would send water purification units to the neediest areas.

Meanwhile, Mauricio Menesses, a volunteer coordinator who lives on the Yucatan Peninsula, wrote in an e-mail that “things are looking great in Cancun” after the hurricane.

“We expected a lot worse than what ended up happening so we are thankful to God for his wonderful mercy,” Menesses wrote late Tuesday night to John Tarrer, a consultant in the Georgia Baptist Convention’s mission volunteers department who has visited the region in connection with a partnership with the Yucatan Peninsula.

“… Throughout the day I was able to visit and talk to the pastors that we visited during your trip and some others from other areas and everyone is well with a few exceptions of some of the churches that lost parts of their roofs and things like that, but nothing to alarm for,” Menesses added.

An ABCNews.com headline said Dean’s bark was bigger than its bite as no deaths were reported in the immediate aftermath of Dean’s two landfalls in Mexico. The storm did, however, kill at least 12 people as it rushed by Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean.

ABC News reported that Dean’s potentially catastrophic effects were diminished by the fact that it hit Mexico along miles of mostly undeveloped wetlands, which limit the storm’s power by absorbing the impact of the wind and water. Major tourist destinations along the coast were spared.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.