General — 14 October 2017 — by Rowland A. Parks
In Santa Martha Village, flood victims say chairlady wants them out of the community center

SANTA MARTHA, Orange Walk District, Wed. Oct. 11, 2017–A number of families from Santa Martha, Orange Walk, had to evacuate their homes when flood waters rose to life-threatening levels last week. The village community center, which also serves as a hurricane shelter, had to be opened due to the flooding emergency.

Amandala visited the village today, Wednesday, and found that a number of families are still taking shelter in the village community center, because some of their homes have been completely destroyed by the flood waters that suddenly, without warning, “came up out of the swamp,” as one man described the coming of the flood.

Some displaced villagers who are sheltering in the village community center, feel that the authorities have been slow to respond to their situation. They feel that things would have been less difficult if the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) had paid more than one visit, and had provided them with the necessary emergency relief, such as food and mattresses.

The story of the neglected flood victims of Santa Martha doesn’t get better. Some families told Amandala that the village council chairlady has told them that they have to come out of the community shelter and return to their homes. Some of these villagers have no home to return to, so to speak.

In order to access their homes some of the men had to hack a path through the dense jungle to avoid the swamp surrounding their homes. They led Amandala through this path to show us the devastation that the flood waters had brought on their homes.

A 37-year-old father of six children who took the Amandala reporter to see his destroyed home said that the floods have put him under severe pressure.

“How can I bring my young baby back in here? She is only months old and just beginning to learn to walk,” said the father.

Asked if anyone from the government has come to see his condition, the man replied, “some people came and they took my picture when the water was at my chest level.”

Amandala asked if the person who took his picture returned to check on him and his family.

“No one came,” the man replied, before adding: “Only the chairlady, Martha Julio, came and told me and my family that we have to come out the community center.”

“She told all of us that we have to come out the center, because our house done dry,” the man continued. “I told her to come and see for yourself, if that is true. But she said to me, ‘I am not going to that place. I am not going to put my nose to smell that sickness’,” he went on to say.

“I told her, but you are the chairlady, you suppose to come and see if we could go home,” the man said he told the chairlady.

The man told Amandala that 40 to 50 persons had to seek shelter at the community center, and some others are sheltering at “other high houses in the village.”

“Our children cannot go to school because of the situation, but school is still going on in the village,” the man said.

A 38-year-old man with 3 sons and a daughter, besides his wife, told Amandala “the water came up about 3 feet high. It’s incredible that this happened. This has never happened in this village before.”

Apart from the destruction caused by the flood waters to his home, the farmer said he also lost “about 150 habanero pepper trees. They were already flowering and some of them had small peppers already.”

This farmer went on to show us the house of his sister and brother-in-law, and his mother’s house, where the mud was thick on the earth floor.

“Yesterday, my sister came here to her house to get some things and found a Tommy Goff [fer- de lance] snake in her house. The snake was shedding its skin,” the farmer said.

“With the power of the rains, the roof of this house caved in,” he continued.

“Up there on that hill,” another man said, on behalf of his friend who cannot speak English, “is my friend’s house. His house is full of sheep sh… It smells real bad.”

At the community center, where some of the women were making tortillas outside on a makeshift fire-heart while their children played inside, one woman said, “The chairlady and her friends have all the stuff locked in her house that Minister Aragon sent for us.”

“The flour is supposed to be given to the people who need it. I told the chairlady, but she said ‘no-one lef di flour there [meaning in the church building]’. And they got everything in that church — they got food, clothing, and fu we, nothing. They said we noh need nothing. Only NEMO helped us, but they only came one time,” the woman said.

A man who was interpreting for a woman who only could speak Spanish, said, “She wants to tell you that her house is full of sh_t, from the toilets and from the sheep. She said the chairlady wants her to go home, but she wants someone to go to her house and see the condition. She cannot go home, because of the scent of the sheep in her house.”

The man who was interpreting for the woman, said, “The shelter is nice, pretty tiles and so on, but we noh want pretty things, we want our houses, or at least let them spray something to kill the scents.”

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