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British Honduras (Hurricane)

Volume 648: debated on Wednesday 1 November 1961

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(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the hurricane which hit British Honduras yesterday.

I have been asked to reply.

Owing to the breakdown of communications information is still extremely scanty, but I regret to say that there is no doubt that a disaster has occurred.

Hurricane "Hattie" passed over Belize, the capital, and a tidal wave inundated the town. So far, only two deaths have been reported in Belize, but reports are, of course, incomplete. It is feared, however, that villages and townships in the Stann Creek district probably received the full force of the hurricane and no news has been received from this area.

Relief measures are being co-ordinated by the Red Cross in Jamaica. Two American destroyers are expected to arrive today and H.M.S. "Troubridge", who is on her way to Belize with relief supplies, is expected to arrive at dawn tomorrow.

The airfield at Stanley Field is reported to be usable, but without navigational aids. It is hoped that the first relief plane will arrive today.

The following message was sent yesterday from the Secretary of State, though it is not certain how soon it may be delivered:
"I am most distressed by reports that hurricane has struck. Our anxious thoughts are with you and everyone in British Honduras at this time. Am anxiously awaiting news when you can communicate and to know what we can do to help."

Is the Under-Secretary aware that we are very glad to hear that everything possible is being done? We hope that there may be one of Her Majesty's warships nearby which may be able to help. Will the hon. Gentleman say, in particular, whether the cost of a disaster of this kind—a natural disaster —is to fall on the Colony, or whether some help will be forthcoming from this country?

I repeat that H.M.S. "Troubridge" is at this moment steaming from Jamaica to Belize.

We will look into the matter of costs when we have the full report, but I think that it is Undoubted that a Colony with an economy such as that of British Honduras will look to this country for assistance.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we on this side of the House wish to associate ourselves with the expression of sympathy which he made on behalf of Her Majesty's Government? We are glad that relief is being rushed to British Honduras as quickly as possible.

On the question of further aid to the stricken Colony, will he bear in mind that this is the second time within a very few years that the Colony has been hit by a hurricane and that special aid will almost certainly be necessary beyond what is usual on these occasions?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I will certainly bear those points in mind.