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Property Owners > Archived Newsletters > September 2007 - Hurricane Dean report

Costa Maya Newsletters: of primary interest to property owners on the Costa Maya, - Mahahual / Mahajual - Rio Indio - Placer - Uvero - Punta Herrera - Xcalak and other points along the coast

***********************Newsletter: Sept 22, 2007 - Hurricane Dean**************************


  • Care takers needing care
  • Benefit for Dean
  • Permits
  • Demolition and Beach restoration
  • Malecon
  • Governor visits Mahahual
  • Note from Cat's Meow
  • Before and After pictures wanted

Hi Neighbors,

Its been a month since hurricane Dean hit and I finally feel somewhat normal again. Neighbors here are still in various stages of "camping" but many are about done digging out and the recovery is now beginning. Today the debris from our destroyed cabanas were removed and all of a sudden I have a new lease on life! I no longer feel like I am living in a war zone. Granted I don't have any windows or door, but you do get past the shock and into action mode. Many other home-owners are still in a state of shock and have not begun to take action. We feel for them and ask all of you to continue to consider their loss even as we learn more about the needs of more individuals every day.

I want to thank all the people who brought supplies for people who live here in Placer and Uvero. At one time there was only two working vehicles in Placer and one of them had 3 tires! Getting in and out was difficult. We can't thank you enough. I'd like to let you know the status of many of the locals on the beach, especially the care takers. Everyone lost something in this storm. For some it was some beach elevation and spectacular palms, others it was everything they loved, for some care-takers, it was their homes that they lived in every day and included most of their worldly possessions. I've included some stories below so that you know that there are people that were helped by your generosity. I also want to thank those in Mahahual who thought of us here when there was so much need in Mahahual as well. They had their own problems yet reached out. Everyone's loss is our own and we can all understand it because we all live it. This is going to be a long haul for many people who depended on the Tourist industry for their livelihood. Until the Pier opens in a year and better jobs come back to the area, everyone will need support. Please support the area and stay in local hotels when you come to visit your property. Balamku is opening in November and the Costa Maya Inn has been open the entire time. Also Xcalak was spared severe damage and many hotels are open now. We don't have a date yet, but will let you know when we will have availability. There is life beyond the cruise ship dock -- this is the perfect time to show businesses here that you support the Costa Maya.


For the care takers who live on the beach and take care of properties here, they most often live in small houses. Sometimes the houses are concrete and sometimes they are of wood or other materials. Usually they are meant to be temporary structures because home-owners have yet to build homes and care takers change. Most of the care takers homes from Punta Herrera down to Rio Indio no longer exist, wiped off the face of the earth by a big wall of water. When they came back to their homes after Hurricane Dean, not only did they find the properties severely damaged, but there was no trace of their homes or any of their belongings. They were not adequately prepared to care for the properties. They didn't come with water, machetes, shovels or any of the things one would need. After all, they were planning on coming back in a few days to resume their job and expected everything to be as they left it - maybe a palapa blown down, but certainly not what they found. We have been fortunate to be a central drop off station for workers here in the Placer, San Jose and even for Uvero. We had no idea how to help them the first few days. We were able to feed them and give them water, from garafons of water we recovered from the mangroves. Luckily aid packages arrived with toothbrushes, alcohol, Clorox, water and other needed things. Also in the packages were shovels, gloves, some clothes all grabbed up quickly by needy men. Water was always needed. Many of them were used to having rain water collected from roofs, or wells to drink and bathe in. all of a sudden, their cisterns are full of sand and seawater, the wells full of salt water and any containers of water are in the jungle. They don't have a hammock any more, pots and pans - nothing. many times we saw dehydration and pure exhaustion. I want to convey to you that most care takers are extremely dedicated. They take their jobs seriously. A good caretaker is like gold and they proved themselves over and over again.

Cebalo has been here on the beach watching and caring for properties for 25 years. He has protected the properties in every hurricane in that entire time except Gilbert. He had plans to stay in Professor martin's house for Dean. I told him he should leave and he said "no." I figured he knew more than I did and his confidence actually convinced me that maybe we should stay. But Karla Nelson, convinced him to leave with her. I'm glad he listened to her! When Cebalo left, I knew that we should leave. The house of Professor martin's that he would have stayed in no longer exists. You can barely tell there was ever a house there. Like the rest of them, he came back to find all of his belongings gone and he was without food or water. Included was a rechargeable battery operated Nebulizer for his Asthma which is somewhere out in the Mangroves with his hammock and clothing. Yet still he protects the property, looking for every last item in the jungle, cleaning the items and protecting them from scavengers. His family was worried about him and came out to see him late in the day, not realizing the conditions. Thankfully the donations we received allowed us to give them food and water.

Cebalo in damaged home

There is another caretaker in Uvero named Cesar. Many of you might know him as he is the caretaker for Dr. Zeman's red house. His break started on the 16th of August. We all thought when the hurricane came he would stay on his break, but he came back to secure the house. We had no idea he had come back. The soldiers came by telling him to evacuate and that they would come back to get him. Since we didn't know he was there, we didn't know to go get him. The soldiers never came back. He stayed in the house through the hurricane, standing on the washing machine with water sometimes coming up to his arm pits. He was petrified. He walked back to our hotel in shock -- he had lost all of his belongings, he hadn't eaten in 36 hours and he was dehydrated. He is now back at the house taking care of it and guarding from scavengers and thieves.

During the first month after the hurricane, caretakers were walking to their properties only to find there was little to care for. Yet they still protected the property; inadequately prepared to do so in an emergency situation. The care packages that came from PlayaPals, TransCaribbean Trust and many others allowed us to help these people in need. They knew exactly what was needed. We were too much in shock ourselves to do anything more than prepare a place to accept the goods and pass them out. We had no idea what was inside the bundles. I want to thank them for their care and understanding and knowing EXACTLY what was needed. Now people are better equipped, they are accustomed to the conditions and have adapted. Still, they have lost everything. Its on to the next stage of care.


417 Helping Hands Hurricane Relief Benefit
September 24th, 2007 in Branson.
Destiny Resorts ( and Club 57 and the 57 Heaven Museum, located at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater ( located in Branson, Missouri will be sponsoring the 417 Helping Hands Hurricane Relief Benefit September 24, 2007. The benefit will be located at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater complex.

This Benefit is being held to assist the victims of Hurricane Dean. Additionally, Convoy of Hope will be a beneficiary of the efforts from this event and future donations. The first $5000.00 raised will be used by the Destiny Resorts volunteer team and will go direct to buy goods for the village of Mahahual. Beyond that, 30% of all cash donations above the initial $5000.00, all canned foods donated and 100% of on line donations via the Convoy of Hope web site link will go direct to Convoy of Hope. The remaining 70% of cash donations above the initial $5000.00 will go to provide direct additional relief for the village of Mahahual.

“We are excited to help out Destiny Resorts and their efforts to help out these people who have suffered so much tragedy last month as the result of Hurricane Dean”, says Ken Childers Director of Marketing and Special Events for the Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater. ‘ Branson, its wonderful people of the city and the whole surrounding area, will enjoy this event AND be able to help out a whole village of people with their attendance and donations on this evening’.

We hope that you can join us for a night of fun and Fund Raising for those in need.
However if you are unable to attend the event, please make a donation anyway. Here’s how:
To donate much needed funds to the hurricane relief efforts by Convoy of Hope for hurricane Dean Victims, please visit: Click on DONATE NOW in the upper right corner of the Home page and follow the instructions.

Here is a little back-story about the motivation to host this event.

After vacationing several times and looking at real estate in the small fishing village of Mahahual, Mexico, Steve Drummond, his wife Erin and their new born son were in the process of making it their second home. The kindness and hospitality of these wonderful people who live and near Mahahual, the quaint sand streets, relaxed slow paced lifestyle and of course, the beautiful turquoise waters of the western Caribbean are so inviting and were too much to resist. Additionally, Steve is currently in negotiations to purchase a resort in the area, offer charter flights to the area via the creation of a new small regional airline, as well as, other business ventures.

Having lived in San Pedro, Belize, which is only a few miles south of Mahahual, Steve knew that there would be a great deal of need if the hurricane made land fall directly on the village. After receiving confirmation about the level and severity of damage and destruction, Steve contacted friends, business associates and the Secretary of Tourism with whom Steve is working with to see how he, his company and his hometown community could help.
So, Steve Drummond and Destiny Resorts ( along with the Secretary of Tourism for the State of Quintana Roo, Mexico, the Honorable Gabriela “Gaby” Rodriguez, are asking for immediate help and assistance in the form of donations for victims of Hurricane Dean, which hit and totally destroyed the tiny fishing village of Mahahual (also spelled Majahual and pronounced Maw-ha-wall) Mexico, near Chetumal, Mexico just north of the Belize border on August 21, 2007. Dean was a category 5 hurricane with sustained winds over 175 miles per hour.
This one sand street fishing village is home to a humble 1000 or so people who make their living solely on tourism from cruise ships and a few small eco lodges and beach resorts. The cruise dock, known as Puerto Costa Maya was over 75% destroyed and does not plan to be reopened until mid 2008. Until Dean this was the fastest growing and one of the most popular small Ports of Call in the Western Caribbean due to its unique charm. There is also a small fleet of independent fishing boats that were a total loss. These hard working fishermen provided fresh fish and seafood of all kinds to the entire southern Quintana Roo region.
Relief efforts are arriving VERY slowly, and donations have only trickled in because the media has not covered the story at all. Steve and other local expats from the US and other countries are taking matters into their own hands with the blessing and assistance from Secretary Rodriguez. Steve and his team of volunteers will arrive in Cancun on Wednesday September 26, and hope to bring with them many thousands of dollars to buy basic goods and materials desperately need by the people and small businesses of this devastated fishing village. They are receiving daily lists of specific needs and will fulfill as much of what is needed when they arrive at Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Home Depot. For ANYONE who questions the credibility and integrity of the efforts of Steve and his team, Secretary Rodriguez’s office will gladly accept phone calls and e mails to validate and verify his connection to the community and blessing from the government to secure immediate relief monies and goods. The number from the US is 011-52-983-832-0860; ask for Alejandro “Alex” Mora or Secretary Rodriguez.
Destiny Resorts, Steve or any of the team will NOT benefit IN ANY WAY from any monies or goods donated. Airline tickets, hotels, truck rental, etc. are all being paid directly out of Steve’s and Destiny Resorts pocket.

Thank you. Give what you can. Contact Steve with questions, etc.
Steve Drummond
417-339-3336 ext. 101


We have found out a little bit more about the permits to clean up, rebuild and restore your property to its previous state. SEMARNAT and PROFEPA has decided that the area was so impacted by Dean that there is no need to get Environmental Impact studies to repair the land. Also, many of the mangroves are dead and full of garbage. Rather than leave them polluted or risk a fire hazard later on in the year from all the broken trees, they will provide permits for clearing and restoring. The permits are free to property owners who don't have buildings on them, free also to those who have received an environmental impact study. If you do not have an environmental impact study you will have to pay a biologist to file it for you, however. This is a Federal Permit and must be filed at SEMARNAT. If you already have an EIS, the turn-around is very quick. If you have never received one, it can take a little while. The permits will only be issued for a short time but are good for several years. Permits to move roads fall under the same window but are a separate permit. We have been seeing, however, that some property owners are already bringing in heavy machinery to move their roads. Don't expect a strait road from Placer to Rio-Indio!

If your home or building was destroyed, you will need one of these permits to do any kind of remodel or reconstruction - even if it is to return it to what it was. The cost of the permit itself (if you don't have an EIS) is $2600 pesos. Having someone file it for you is extra. We are looking at what a group price would be if, for example, a topographer and biologist came out and would do 10 lots in one day. Included in the permit process are pictures of the destroyed property which have to be filed. Even if you want to move the sand from the road back to the beach, you should have a permit. There is a fine assessed against the property owner (not the workers) when there is no permit. I do not know about the town of Mahahual. if you have property there, it is covered under urban permits and may have different restrictions and rules. If you already are working with a builder, they should have all of this in motion already.


I mentioned in my opening that we had our buildings demolished and some of the sand moved to the beach. All the work isn't finished, but the difference is significant. I'm not sure who else is doing this, but Todd Story's Costa Maya Land Restoration company is quickly organizing Beach Cleanup and property restoration. We were very impressed with his Track-hoe driver -- he was an artist in demolition, separating rebar from concrete. It only took about 4 hours to do what I thought would take days. We still have more work to do, but I feel better already. If you are interested in property restoration or demolition, you can contact Todd at for estimates and more information. Todd will not do anything illegal and will not risk your property by proceeding work without a permit.

FYI - Todd Story is the developer of the new Condos going in between the lighthouse and the pier. Excavation started on the Costa Maya Villas immediately after the hurricane and without taking a breather, Todd started up restoration work on other properties. I'll send more information about Costa Maya Villas and their progress in the next newsletter, but I wanted everyone to know that new building and restoration is proceeding rapidly on the Costa Maya.


During all of the Dean confusion, many people wondered about the proposed Malecon. Last Wednesday it started construction with a budget of $1.8 million dollars according to reports from FONATUR. The Malecon will have a 2 meter deep foundation that starts at the lighthouse and extends approximately to the location of Dreamtime diving. In the meantime, we have heard that there is a moratorium on building permits in Mahahual. This may be due to the impact of the Malecon on the existing properties. We aren't certain, but right now Mahahual is full of Construction workers.


I missed the Governor's visit, but Claudia Hurtado Valenzuela sent out this information on his visit of Wednesday, Sept 19th:
". . .My comment about the meeting with the Governor is that like always we are protected, very few people knew about his visit, and we just happened to be at the right place at the right time, Kevin seized the opportunity to talk to him and he was so receptive that he moved forward and extended his hand shake to us, we expressed our concern with the mixed information, with the uncertainty surrounding the relief programme and the need for a counterpart to be able to answer questions and convey official information which is lacking and that can lead to speculation and fear.

The delegate was there and we acknowledged him as having work with the local authorities. The governor was there on an official ceremoniy to give out small loans ranging from 15 to 20,000 pesos for middle size business owners to aid them on the rebuilding. To me, he makes a very good impression, of a truly concerned governor. Addressed Kevin directly in perfectly good English and asked about the number of foreigners living in the area. After the meeting a military high ranking officer stayed and talked with me for a while, gave me his contact number and today at 8:00 am called my cell to confirm he had the right number, (I think that was the reason of his call)

The governor asked one of this cabinet members to exchange contact information with us and asked us, she is in the tourism department, so Kevin will follow up on this as soon as I give him the address.
Muchas gracias again,
I am so glad that you are writing everything so detailed, I am sure that afer this meeting a lot of small foreign investors and property owners in the area can breathe again, and if the governor was not aware of the real situation regarding Mahahual he is now, He is from Cozumel and talked to the people about his life after Gilbert when his family spent years looking at the empty Cozumel, explained about the new stage to come with building activity and the hope to have the tourists back as soon as possible to bring back to Mahahual their lives and dreams

People are so hopefull, so willing to rebuild their homes and lifes people donating to the paypal account really can't imagine how they have impacted this community and the hope they bring of people caring and not feeling abandoned and forgotten. . ."
It is nice to hear some positive news. I haven't heard Kevin Graham's feedback but hope to soon.


Barb and Brian asked me to post the following quote about Cat's Meow because they feel there has been so much misinformation about their post-Dean plans.
". . .First Brian and I are alive although on the morning of the night of the hurricane even though we where on the out skirts of Chetumal we almost bought it. We are slowly forming what we will do next, the restaurant will be rebuilt the timing depends on when the rebuilding of the port is scheduled to be done. The industry outside the country says that the port will be rebuilt to take two ships by the fall of next year. The other birth or births will be early in the next year. Even though are business is not completely patrons from the port and we have been striving to bring in other business. Viability must still at this point be dependent on the port. We have had incredible support from outside the country and even in Chetumal to continue the business. Unfortunately we do not have enough money to sit and wait until this happens so we will have to do something else in the mean while. Any other information other than what is stated here is not valid or given with the knowledge or permission of Barb or Brian."


I recently posted some before and after Dean pictures. If you have some before and after pictures of your property, please send them to this address and I will post them. I may have after pictures of your site, so if you have some before ones, send them and if I have an after, I will post it. I would like to include as many as possible. You can view pictures at . I've also added a page on pictures of Uvero and San Jose. You can click on the links at the left of the page to see additional pictures.


The editor of this newsletter (me) makes no claims that the information here is completely true. I am not a news reporter, Spanish is not my native language, the newspapers are notorious for not verifying information and this is not my primary business, but rather a service to the neighborhood. If you find something untrue PLEASE let me know and I will print a disclaimer. I try to verify the information but even the newspaper prints up rumors, so I can only report what I read and hear.

Until Next month...

Regards from your Costa Maya Neighbor
Mayan Beach Garden, Boutique hotel on the Costa Maya



Updated: 27-Apr-2008

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