Macal and Mopan Rivers Rise Amid Torrential Rains in the West
Aside from the south, the downpour over the weekend also affected the western part of the country where the Macal and Mopan Rivers rose above their usual levels. While homes were not affected by flooding, infrastructure was. Bridges, ferries and roads were under water today when Duane Moody was in the Cayo District.
Duane Moody, Reporting
In the west, the incessant downpour caused flooding in several areas over the weekend….and even though the rains did not let up from Teakettle to Roaring Creek today, children still made their way to school with umbrellas. As we headed to the twin towns of Santa Elena and San Ignacio, water levels in the Macal and Mopan Rivers in the west were up about three feet above normal.
Al Westby, NEMO Coordinator, Cayo District
“We noticed the significant rising of the Mopan and the Macal River, which as you know is a concern for residents living along the Macal and the Mopan River banks. However, with our trained teams in these vicinities, we sent out notice to all the villagers and people living along those areas to stay focus and be keen on the rising of the river.”
While the rising waters have not infiltrated any homes, NEMO Coordinator, Al Westby says that several bridges are submerged and residents in certain areas must take alternate routes to exist their neighborhood.
“We have noticed that yes, the rivers have been going up, but fortunately for us in this area, we haven’t gotten any problem in sense of the flooding in homes and things like that. Most of the calls we are getting is that people, maybe their roadway has two-three feet of water, which is natural—it will run off in couple hours time. But other than that, to say that households are being damaged and things like that; that’s a no, no. Two of the first things that will be displaced—the low-lying wooden bridge that separates San Ignacio and Santa Elena. We have the Iguana Creek Bridge also. But for us, we have the roadway from Bullet Tree on to Spanish Lookout so that road is open—the one we are currently on now. Both ferries—Baking Pot Ferry and Succotz Ferry—are out of commission. Up to yesterday, we had gotten information from the Tourism Unit that the ATM Caves and Barton Creek are closed. As you know we still have tour guides who would want to chance it and take tourists into these dangerous situations so we asked the police for that hand to make sure that these things doesn’t happen.”
It is almost like déjà vu, says Westby, because according to the team on the ground, the fluctuating water levels are similar to the 2008 Tropical Depression Sixteen.
“The concern basically is once bitten twice shy. We look at the pattern of this flooding and it is similar compared to the pattern of 2008, TD-sixteen. So with that we had to pay keen attention. Up to this moment, we still moving around, mobilizing, going to villages. As you notice, the guys I have around me are the people who do all the ground work for us—not me. These are the guys who are around me. They go and make sure that all surroundings that they can reach is okay and that people’s concerns are addressed. Since morning, we noticed that the water went down about two and a half feet or so, but while coming back from this tour in San Marcus, we noticed that it went up back a foot and it is still going up. So our concern on areas stay the same. From Arenal to Benque; Succotz, Calla Creek, Bullet Tree, Santa Familia, Billie White and all these villages that are flood prone. Santa Elena, San Ignacio, Trapiche, Cristo Rey, El Progresso Seven Miles…we ask everybody to stay focus and just listen to us, listen to NEMO; listen to the relevant news media. There’s a lot of propaganda going out on Facebook that this has been happening in Cayo and things like that. It’s a no. Get to the relevant authorities.”
Duane Moody for News Five.
For updates on what’s happening in the Cayo District, residents can call the 936 NEMO hotline or Westby at 630-3224 or 661-3224
Weekend Rains Leave Flooding in the South
Just a few weeks ago, Belize City was underwater…inundated by a weekend of heavy rain. NEMO had to be pressed into immediate and urgent action to relieve suffering caused by the floodwaters. It hasn’t exactly rated the same attention, but sections of the Toledo District were flooded out this weekend, again because of incessant rains which blanketed the area. The waters have receded to a large extent, but as we found out today, residents of Toledo are still feeling the impact. Mike Rudon went south and has the story.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
The heavy downpour which flooded the Toledo District over the weekend continued for much of our journey this morning. The situation was critical by Saturday, when NEMO was activated and families in various low-lying communities had to be evacuated and placed in shelters.
Kenton Parham, District Coordinator, NEMO
“This time around, it’s mostly in the northern part of the district—Big Falls, upwards. So we have Big Falls, San Miguel which has a few people; between both of them it is about seven or eight families—only one in shelter. The hardest hit areas is going on up Golden Stream, moving up to Bladen, Trio and now Bella Vista. We had shelters opened initially in Golden Stream. Since yesterday evening, nobody is in the shelter; they went back and trying to clean out their homes and so forth. So as water recedes, they are trying to get back home. we still currently have shelters opened in Bladen, in Trio and Bella Vista as of last night.”
Flooding in the Toledo District is nothing new, and the response by NEMO should certainly be indicative of a well-oiled machine at this point, from activation to the all clear.
“The initial thing is the safety of the people. So out of the gate, it would be transport and evacuation supported by the B.D.F.—getting people to safety, getting them to shelter. Once they are in shelter, the relief supplies management committee reaches out there as quickly as possible with some pre-packaged stuff so that they could at least get some food. Of course, we always emphasize; you know you are going to move into shelter, you know the flooding is coming, please begin to prepare yourself; bring along some food and this kind of thing because part of this whole system is the community part of it—community preparedness which strengthens our whole emergency system. Aside from that, the relief supplies committee is charged with looking after the humanitarian needs for these people, especially with food and so forth. So they get into shelter with pre-packaged stuff and later would follow up with that if the shelter stays prolonged and we would set up stove and gas tanks in these stations so that people can cook in a communal sort of session. We’ve done this before like in golden Stream, Big Falls…it is nothing strange to us.”
Like we said, not rocket science, but still there are complaints of the response being inadequate. In the community of Bladen, over one hundred persons are still in the shelter. Today they were taking full advantage of dry clothes and food provided by Emilio Zabaneh and religious leaders from Belmopan and the south.
Emilio Zabaneh, Good Samaritan
“The people responsible for NEMO tell me that they are on the ground doing the best that they can. But what I can tell you, from what we saw in the shelters, which were unofficial shelters, churches that were opened; there is nothing there. I believe an adequate shelter should have a stove that people could cook cause if they give you beans and rice and flour, what are you going to do with it if your stove or your fire hearth is under water? Another thing that I would like to see addressed is that I understand from NEMO that you are supposed to come to the shelter with your two-day supply of food. But that is for people that decide to go there early. What about people that are rescued? In Bladen right here, when I brought the canoe in at ten o’clock one night to rescue people that were trapped. There were two men that were up in a tree. Now if these people come to a shelter, how can they bring anything with them? And so I think we need to rethink how we shelter people and the needs of a shelter. Definitely a shelter needs the cots, you need to sleep comfortably. You know I have pictures of babies just spread out on the floor in a church. I don’t think that that’s adequate response.”
“Sometimes logistically we have to overcome some hurdles for instance with the flooding of the roads that we don’t anticipate….sometimes we get a late start, vehicles, transportation and these sort of things. But with every incident we face, we see areas where we can improve a little bit better and then we change. Then we find little bit more areas and then we change. But it is not like an intentional bottleneck or stuff like that where people are not getting through. It is a fluid thing. It’s a system that we have very good mechanisms in place. The NEMO system it works; the committees that are set up, even at the community level and wherever we see we need to improve, we improve.”
In Golden Stream, one of the areas most affected, water rose as high as the mark left on these wooden structures. It has now receded, but the Ministry of Health is now making its rounds to prevent any outbreaks.
Kevin Dawson, Rural Health Nurse
“The main thing we want to advice people is, stay inside as much as possible. Don’t go in the rain, don’t play in the rain, don’t play in the waters because you can get contamination as well. People at times get the water in the mouth when they play in the water. We don’t advice anyone to play in the water at this time. The pigs are also around, the dogs are around; they are stooling on the place and you can have children catching worms and parasites and viruses and bacterias. So we advice you stay inside, don’t play in the water, don’t play in the rain. Keep dry as possible and keep safe.”
It is expected that persons could remain in shelters for the rest of this week, until their homes dry out. Mike Rudon for News Five.
NEMO had issued advisories for the Belize River Valley which acts as a natural reservoir for all those floodwaters now rushing down from the south.