|About Us • Contact Us • Site Map • Search Utila|
|The Official Web Site of Utila, The Bay Islands, Honduras|
News Items picked from the Headlines
The BGA bank on Utila is clearly struggling to accommodate it’s increasing volume of transactions. Queuing starts an hour before opening and people are forced to wait for hours. “I’ve been here for three hours, it takes about 25 minutes to serve one person” said one customer. “They could at least open all the tellers, it might speed things up a little,” he said, but it appears staff shortages make this impossible.
Pregnant women and the elderly receive priority but still face long waiting times. “People ask me to come to the bank for them because I can do it quicker, but now I have to wait longer and longer and its not worth it” said a pregnant customer.
UPCO electricity payments have made up the bulk of transactions since the pre pay meter system was established in 2003.The bank insists upon handling these payments to ensure they receive their share of UPCO profits. The company owe them monthly installments for the 1.89 million dollar loan they took out with the bank two years ago. Ms. Vilmer Reye, public relations officer in La Ceiba said, “We are aware of the problems faced in Utila and are installing an ATM within the next two weeks in order to help resolve the situation”.
It will not be possible however to pay for electricity through the ATM. Many Utilians are concerned that the extent of the situation is not fully recognized by governing bodies on the mainland. Ricardo Flores, General Manager for UPCO has offered another solution. “We are willing to pay for installation and software for an additional payment point in Bush Supermarket,” he said. This service would be available from 6:30am – 6:30pm and run by supermarket owner Mr. Bush. “It would not only reduce pressure on the bank but would provide our customers with a better service,” said Mr Flores. Head Office is however reluctant to accept this proposal if the bank loses out on its 1.5% cut retrieved on each transaction.
The results of the Government review of Utila Electricity company are still pending. Until results come out electricity rates will remain frozen.Mr. Ricardo Flores, Manager, said “We hope to restructure the terms of UPCO’s loan with the bank- reduce monthly repayments by increasing the loan period and ultimately fixing an affordable tariff.”
UPCO is also investigating the installation of wind power turbines. Mr. Flores is in talks with Mr. Herman of Shellstede, a company that will work with UPCO on a consultation basis. “We are the most advanced alternative power scheme in the country, all the necessary permits are in place. ”Wind powered generators need special planning, the generator cannot be turned off, and energy produced must be burned. One suggested use for the excess energy is a fish packaging and icing plant
Billowing smoke alerted the island to the raging inferno that was Miss Shannon Campbell's house at TradeWind properties on the evening of Friday the 27th.
In a mad rush people swarmed to the scene to witness the wooden house burn to cinders as firefighters struggled to control the blaze. Brave Ms. Campbell looked on tearfully as she recounted the chain of events, “I had just put a frozen chicken in the oven for my future son in law and walked over to chat with my neighbors briefly when we saw the smoke”. After rushing back to discover the plasterboard behind the oven on fire, very close to two propane tanks, Ms. Campbell only managed to salvage her bag, and land documents and passport from the drawer before running out of the house.
“Three minutes later there was a massive explosion and the fire turned into a blazing inferno, spewing out thick black smoke,” she recalled. Members of the community rallied together to assist the fire department in extinguishing the flames.
Mr Johnny Hinds, who owns the house just four meters away was also concerned for the safety of his own home as the intense heat melted the gutters and cracked the glass in his windows. Luckily the wind changed direction and the threat diminished.
Mr Hinds’ tenant, Mr. Warren Cowling looked on anxiously from his balcony as Mr. Bush cut through his outside pipeline to access a further water supply. Inside Mr. Cowlings home smelt of a sauna as a result of the heat, “I have been dousing the walls with water in an effort to fend off the flames,” he exclaimed.
Mrs Campbell had recently brought furniture for her new business and was busy painting it inside the house. Everything was lost save for her electricity meter and the clothes she was wearing. 50 minutes after it began the fire was tamed and the hoards gathered on the beach made their way home.
This is not an isolated incident, many have fallen victim to the dangers of gas cooking. Miss Joya, restaurant owner, received third degree burns on her arm whilst lighting the cooker in her restaurant. Captain Hal Whitefield suffered similar injuries to both his feet from an unlit gas oven, “I didn’t even strike a match, the stove just exploded without warning, Kaboom!” he told us.
Three escaped convicts had been sighted on Utila and were believed to be hiding out on the island. Manuel de Jesus Borjas, Mauricio Dubon Rodriguez and Oscar Rodolfo Velasquez escaped from Santa Barbra Prison, western Honduras on 20th May.
It is unclear how the trio reached the island, it is believed they traveled here hoping to lay low for a while, now the alarm has been raised it may be hard for them to escape again.
Mr Borjas was being held for murder, the other two for car theft. Extra police officers and resources arrived on the ferry on the morning 27th of May to assist local forces in the search.
The search effort focused on more remote parts of the island, including Pumpkin Hill and the north side beaches. As soon as the news broke islanders joined together in an attempt to root out the law breakers, inundating HQTV, Utila’s local television station, with reports of sightings and other information The channel has screened special live shows to keep the community informed.
Community members have been calling for tighter security on the Utila Princess. “Anyone can get on that Yacht, you should have to show identification when buying a ticket, just like when you travel by bus.” said one Utilian. At the time of going to press the perpetrators were still at loose.