BELIZE CITY, Tues. Nov. 17, 2015–Hundreds of residents of southern Belize were displaced over the weekend—and some are still unable to return to their homes—after a tropical wave spawned bouts of torrential rains which drenched the Belize, Cayo and Toledo Districts.
Persons from districts in Stann Creek and Toledo began seeking shelter on Saturday. Four-ton army trucks assisted with getting villagers out of places which had become impassable to regular traffic.
The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) provided emergency relief supplies, such as stoves and gas for cooking, for persons who were not able to return to their homes for days. They were also provided with blankets, mattresses, and medical supplies.
About 400-500 head of cattle, valued at several thousands of dollars, had to be taken to higher ground because their pastures had been inundated, and feed had been moved in for them with the assistance of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Latest NEMO alert
NEMO’s 6:00 p.m. advisory “urges people in St. Paul’s Bank, Willows Bank, Double Head Cabbage, Bermudian Landing, Isabela Bank, Flowers Bank, May Pen, Scotland Half-moon, Burrell Boom, Lords Bank, Ladyville, Belama Phase 4, and Crooked Tree to maintain a state of heightened alert. People on the edge of the [Crooked Tree] Lagoon [should] be informed that the water is rising.”
According to NEMO, the Coastal Road is closed to all traffic and in Bomba, the road remains impassable to small vehicles. The Gracie Rock road remains closed.
“In Cayo, as the Macal River recedes, the following crossings are still closed to the traffic: the Spanish lookout roads via Baking Pot Ferry and the Iguana Creek Bridge; Succotz ferry and the low-lying wooden bridge that’s across the Macal River. ATM and Barton Creek caves remain closed,” it added.
We understand from Jorge Aguallos of Bullet Tree Falls, who frequents the San Ignacio area, that the low lying wooden bridge used to cross over from Santa Elena to San Ignacio, which had been closed due to flooding, should be open as the water there has subsided. He said that earlier today work was being done to clean up the bridge.
Eye on Belize River Valley
Although much of the flooding had been seen in southern Belize, that excess water has been making its way down to the Belize River area, where flood levels continue to rise even as we go to press tonight.
Belize Rural Central area representative for the United Democratic Party, Edmond “Clear the Land” Castro, who was recently appointed as the Minister of State responsible for National Emergency, told Amandala late this evening that one person had to be relocated in the Belize River Valley, but concerns are that the water is coming down faster than expected. Flowers Bank, Isabella Bank, Double Head Cabbage and Burrell Boom are already being impacted, Castro said.
A holding area for cattle had also been constructed at Willows Bank and the minister had been appealing to cattle ranchers whose pastures are likely to become inundated to make use of the facility early.
He told us that he will be going out tomorrow, Wednesday, along with a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture, to check on those farmers whose cattle may be in distress due to the flood and which will need feed to stay alive, since their pastures are being inundated.
The Minister told us that 800 head of cattle are reportedly in distress in south, because of the flood.
Castro will be accompanied by Belize Rural Central representative, Beverly Castillo, Minister of State for Immigration, when he visits the Gracie Rock area and Gales Point Manatee tomorrow afternoon.
The main concern now, he said, is the agricultural impact of the flood.
“I’m in serious trouble right now,” Flowers, 81, a farmer in Double Head Cabbage, told Amandala.
“My whole place under lone water,” he said, referring to his farm where he has 30 head of cattle, as well as young calves, valued at thousands of dollars. He told us that he cannot move them from where they are now.
According to Flowers, his farm is the lowest in his area and the worst impacted. He said that he had spoken earlier today with Hon. Castro, who said he would try to assist with getting feed for the cattle.
The water on the farm is 2 feet deep at some points, and higher, and he has to use a dory to access his cattle, Flowers said.
“Some in Big Falls are worse than me. Behind St. Paul’s Bank, some parts, some people are worse than me,” he added.
The Toledo District most impacted
On Monday, Minister Castro travelled to Toledo, where he met with NEMO Toledo, as they assessed the situation in Big Falls, San Miguel, Golden Stream, Bladen and other areas impacted.
Minister Castro told us Monday that a team had also been dispatched to Monkey River, which was also affected by the flood. Belize Defence Force (BDF) officers were dispatched to take supplies into villagers, who had been cut off by the flood.
Shelton Defour, coordinator at NEMO, spoke with Amandala this evening, about the latest situation. According to Defour, as many as 12 villages in Toledo and three locations in Stann Creek were seriously impacted.
Defour said that the vast majority of the people who sought shelter, from villages such as Golden Stream, Trio, Bella Vista, have returned home.
Although there were about 118 people in shelter in Golden Stream on Saturday night, they have all gone back home, Defour said.
In Bladen, 115 people had sought shelter, and they are now down to 2 families of 12 persons whose homes are still under water, Defour said. In Bella Vista, 40 persons are still being sheltered.
While most of the persons who sought shelter were from the Toledo District, there were some families in Stann Creek who also left their flooded homes to seek shelter: 22 in Cow Pen and 14 in Sarawee.
In the Hope Creek area, which was impacted by the flood, nobody went to a shelter. We were also told although Cayo was also impacted by flooding, nobody sought shelter there.
Some culverts were washed out, and although no one had to seek shelter in Blue Creek, Toledo, access was cut off because the access bridge was under water.
A bit more rain in the forecast
According to Forecaster Michael Gentle of the National Meteorological Service, more rains are in the forecast. Gentle said that although drier conditions should prevail tonight, moisture and showers should increase on Wednesday night and Thursday. He said that the light southeast airflow will shift and winds will back up to the northeast, causing fresh rains.
Since the weekend, Belize had been affected by a tropical wave which affected our weather for three to four days, predominantly in southern and central Belize. This is the same area which is likely to be affected by rains later this week, although the intensity of the rains won’t be as strong.
There are still roughly two more weeks to go before the close of the rainy season, which, like the Atlantic Hurricane Season, spans from June to November.
Agricultural impacts being assessed
The NEMO officials have advised our newspaper that there has thankfully been no loss of life, but an assessment is ongoing to determine the extent to which the agriculture sector has been adversely impacted by the flood.
According to Defour, NEMO was activated on Friday, November 13, and they have been operating right through until now, responding to the situation and the needs of the people.
“Many public officers have worked tirelessly, giving up their weekend and continuing to work in Toledo and the Belize River Valley. Thanks to the public officers, and in particular BDF and police, who provided support, including the Transport Department,” said Defour.
He also thanked the media which, he said, was instrumental in getting the message out to the people, to keep them abreast of what is happening.