Highlights — 29 October 2013 — by Kareem Clarke
Heavy rains flood rural Belize District and Cayo District

Incessant rains which poured significant amounts of water across the country late last week and over the past weekend have caused various incidents of flooding in some rural areas of Belize, particularly in the Cayo District, where rising water levels forced families to relocate for their safety.

On Friday morning, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) issued a flood watch for several villages in western and southern Belize, and by Friday night, torrents of heavy rain began to drench the country, mainly in the western and southern regions. The rains which caused the localized flooding were as a consequence of a cold front that passed over the Yucatan peninsula.

In the communities of Arizona, Teakettle and Maya Mopan, floods affected several families, with some areas recording as much as 12 inches of water.

In the south, North Stann Creek was 4 feet above normal water levels, while waters were about 12 feet above normal at Hope Creek Village.

In Mullins River, waters were about 3 feet above normal, and about 5 feet above normal in Cabbage Hay Creek. NEMO warned that a flood watch was in effect for 6 villages in Stann Creek and 6 villages in Toledo for the weekend.

By Saturday, the rains had stopped in certain parts of the Cayo District and Roaring River was apparently leveling off, but although the water was receding, motorists were advised to drive with extreme caution along the highways.

Today, Amandala went to visit a few of the areas that were affected by flooding over the weekend so as to get a firsthand account of the extent of the flooding situation in and around the Belmopan area. In most of the affected areas, only the remnants of the flood’s effects were visible – murky waters and muddy streets. For the most part, the waters were receding from the rivers and properties, although in San Martin, near Salvapan, water was still flowing across the street.

In the Maya Mopan area, where the water had reportedly risen up to 10 feet on Sunday, we were told that many residents were prevented from entering their homes, and they were stranded in the pouring rain. Motorists reportedly had parked their vehicles in the parking lot of a local grocery store to avoid damage, while another store owner told us that the water ran through her store and came up to almost 6 inches high. Fortunately for the owner, her stock was raised several inches higher, and therefore, she did not suffer any losses.

Nephtali Fuentes, who lives in the immediate vicinity, told Amandala that although water rose in his yard, luckily, it did not enter his home, which is only about one foot above the ground. Fuentes said that due to this experience, he will now have to think about what to do if there is a similar flood in the future.

Fuentes said that he was at home when he saw that it was raining, but noticed that the rain lasted for an extended period of time. He said that the next thing he saw was that his entire yard was flooded, and the water rose to his verandah and almost entered his house, so he decided to monitor the situation.

He said that he then saw that the creek was also overflowing, and thought of whether he should evacuate to a shelter. He mentioned that it was the worst flooding that he has ever experienced in the four years he has resided in the village. Fuentes said that he will be sure to take precautionary measures now, because he is mindful of what could happen if there is to be another flood in the area.

Fuentes hopes that personnel from the Belmopan City Council would go to the village to assist them to clean out the drains so that water could run off more quickly when it rains heavily, such as it did over the weekend.

While Fuentes is now left to ponder the future, another family, headed by Jorge Valladares, must preoccupy themselves with the effects of the present. They live in a swampy area in Maya Mopan, and they evacuated from their home because one of his four children suffers from asthma.

Valladares told us that the rains started on Saturday morning, and by Saturday evening, they had to vacate their premises. He then said that he received some assistance to remove his belongings on Sunday, but he was only able to get out some pieces of clothes for himself and his family.

Valladares and his family are presently stuck at the shelter, uncertain of what will be their future, since they are unable to go home and they have nowhere else to go. The family has been living in the area for one year since they acquired the land from the area representative, but feared that they might have to go back to renting a living space.

Valladares said that he has to leave the shelter 2 or 3 times a day to check on the rest of his possessions because his home has been burglarized already, although it is inundated. Also, at the shelter is a family of 5, which includes a one-week old baby from San Martin.

While many students are unable to go to school due to the rains, some companies are also unable to do business due to the bad weather conditions. Such was the case of Caves Branch Outpost Lodge, whose employees conduct tours inside the caves in Frank’s Eddy village. Tour guide Rajid Awe told us that he had been sent home for the day, along with 10 other employees.

Awe said that the water does not normally rise all the way up to where they saw it today, so they were unable to do any tours or zip lining, but they will go back tomorrow to check if the waters have receded by then. He mentioned that the flooding has also damaged portions of the road which they use to access the site.

Amandala also understands that this morning, five men had to be rescued from the river where the flooding had taken place in Frank’s Eddy, while at about 10:30 a.m., two men capsized while crossing the Mopan River in Cayo in a dory.

Only one of the men managed to reach safety; the other has not yet been found.

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