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50 Years After-The Benzene Tragedy In Seine Bight

“Dear Cheryl I have below the announcement of the memorial for the victims of the Benzene Tragedy that I spearheaded in December, 2011. Same was published in the Sunday, December 11th, 2011 issue of the Reporter Newspaper here in Belize. Hope you find the information useful.

50 Years After-The Benzene Tragedy In Seine Bight 11/20/2011

In the aftermath of Hurricane Hattie which occurred on October 31st, 1961, a container of what was thought to be drinkable liquor washed up on the shores of Seine Bight on the Placencia Peninsula, in the Stann Creek District of Belize, Central America.

Unsuspecting revellers celebrating Carib Settlement Day (November 19th) that year, heard about the availability of the drink, and indulged themselves. Though the drink displayed similar characteristics to ethyl alcohol (ethanol) the member of the alcohol family that is commonly consumed as intoxicating liquor, it actually was not drinkable alcohol. Instead it was the highly toxic, colourless methyl alcohol (methanol), with characteristic alcohol odor, which is used globally for the production of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a solution used as a preservative for biological specimens.

Unfortunately, ten villagers (eight men and two women) who drank considerable amounts of the liquid died of poisoning while two others who did not drink as much were left blind. The men who died were Dionicio Augustine, Victoriano Augustine, Peter Flores, Lazarus Lambey, Leandro Lambey, John Lopes, Bernardino Moriera, and Leo Rodriguez. The two women are Apolinia Rodriguez and Gregoria Thomas.

The period since the death of the first victim (Apolinia Rodriguez) and the last (Leandro Lambey) on December 5th, 1961 is regarded by many natives as the darkest period in the history of Seine Bight Village. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, villagers were made to think that the name of the infamous drink was “benzene,” and hence the incident has commonly been referred to as the “Benzene Tragedy.”

Family and friends of the victims of this tragedy will gather in Seine Bight Village on Saturday, December 10th, 2011 to partake in activities commemorating the 50th anniversary of the incident.

It starts with a Memorial Mass in Latin at 11:00 A.M, at the Saint Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church. After the Mass, a reception follows under a tent at the Lambey’s open lot (#120A) in the Village. The reception will include reflections on the life and times of the victims, some of whom were prominent members of the community, having travelled to the United States and Great Britain as part of the war effort (world war 11). Traditional activities involving immediate relatives start on the evening of Friday 9th, through 9:30 A.M on Saturday 10th.

Persons wishing to join us in a day of prayer and reflection or curious about the facts of the aforementioned life changing event are welcomed to join us in church at 11:00 A.M on Saturday December 10th, 2011, and thereafter at the reception.

For more information on this event you can contact Mr. Marion Lambey in Independence Village, or via Email:


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