PETEN RIVER DRAINAGE HITTING BELIZE AND CAUSING MASSIVE FLOODS ALONG
MAIN RIVERS AND LOSS OF LOCAL CROPS AND SUBSISTANCE FOOD CROPS TO MANY
What caught everyone's attention was that Hurricane Keith stalled over
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker town with the highest winds
clocked at 163 mph in short gusts. While a small localized hurricane
from wind damage viewpoint, the fact that the Hurricane sat for 3 days
and basically wandered and circled, hitting San Pedro town two times and
Caye Caulker town about four times, with the eye of Keith eventually
passing over Orange Walk Town in the mainland. Wind and rain were the
problems. Plus low lying islands with many places just a few feet above
The plight of these two places was first place in the short term
emergency factors of NEMO the hurricane emergency people of the
Government of Belize.
But Keith while not having a widespread wind pattern, the channel of
wind and hurricane eye was roughly 30 miles wide for the most terrible
winds, it did carry a lot of rain on a wider 300 mile diameter path.
One section of Hurricane Keith separated and ended up forming a circling
tropical storm, over far away Miami in the USA, from which they have
still not got out from the flooding.
A lot of the rain dropped in the whole northern half of Belize.
Flooding Belize City for a couple of days, with water heights about 3 ft
above normal street level.
Now we have a longer term lingering effect. As this wide rain belt of
the Hurricane stalled over Belize, flooding and saturating the ground for
three days, when it did finally move off west, it then proceeded to flood
the Peten jungles in the country of neighbouring country of Guatemala.
Sun came out in Belize and it has been nice for two days. Belize City
the local mainland port dried out, but suddenly yesterday and today, the
upper rivers of Belize which are the drainage system for much of the
highlands in western Belize in the Cayo District and from the Peten
jungles are now pouring out water in unprecedented rates. The river
Hondo which in normal times is a couple of hundred yards wide is reported
to be 5 miles wide in floods at places. I wonder how the remote Mollejon
hydro dam is holding up?
The following villages are now either surrounded by flood waters, or
their homes are three feet under water. Some of these villages are on
high river banks over ten feet above normal dry season river levels.
Known to be flooded are: Blue Creek, Willows Bank, San Antonio, San
Roman, Douglas. Water is still rising as the Peten jungles drain away
down into the country of Belize. Flooding is proceeding steadily toward
the Belize River mouth and Corozal town on Chetumal Bay from the Rio
Hondo. The ground is already saturated and can take no more. There will
be no mud slides in Belize because we do not have the volcano soils of
Western Central America, ours is a limestone shelf.
Most villages rely on agriculture for their livelihood. Crops are
being ruined, and the usual ground food subsistance food crops are being
ruined also. Of course, this is the tropics and they will grow back.
Around March/April next year should see a recovery, but eating is going
to be tight in these rural villages for the next six months.
Belize City has seen about ten houses collapse. Usually older wooden
houses that were rotten, or termite ridden. Adding more homeless
families to the lists. The Stadium is being used as a homeless shelter
for the time being. It is reputed to be chocker block full and the City
Council and Emergency management teams are looking for another place to
stick the long term homeless. The Belize Red Cross is contacting the
American Red Cross for some immediate aid, if they can get it.
Hattieville, a village some 11 miles from Belize City inland from the
port was the site of removal of homeless people after Hurricane Hattie in
1961. Obviously it is too low as it is also flooded now. It was obvious
back then in 1962 that it would flood, but Belize City people did not
want to leave their beloved port town. So in a compromise solution the
new village and homes were built for homeless victims of that time, again
on a flood plain close to the low lying swamp town of Belize City. Now
the bad decision is coming home to roost.
PACT, the Protected Areas Trust of Belize has donated $50,000 Bz, or
$25,000 USA to the University of Belize which is headquartering some of
the relief efforts by the Belize Red Cross.
Placentia village, Seine Bight town, and Independence in southern
Belize, who were unaffected by either wind or floods have pooled their
resources down there in the southern part of the country and with the
donation of a boat trip by a dive boat from Rum Point Inn, have sent a
boat load of supplies northward to San Pedro over the waters and islands
of the inner sea behind the Great Barrier Reef of Belize. They claim they
will make a second trip also with donations.
The Audubon Society has donated supplies inland to the flooded
community of Crooked Tree. They are reporting higher and worse flooding
than the flood waters created by Hurricane Mitch which gave Belize a very
bad scare, but by-passed us; to cause 10,000 deaths by flooding and mud
slides in neighbouring Honduras.
In Belize City, they are planning on long term shelters for the
homeless with arrangements hopefully through the Belizean Red Cross.
Most assistance so far, has all been solely from the locals, or within
the country of Belize. It looked like we were going to be able to handle
this ourselves, if it was confined to the island towns of Caye Caulker
and San Pedro. The situation now is getting a bit out of hand. The
Government of Belize obviously does not have the resources to cope with
all this food shortage. The waters are going to drain away, but for the
next six months there is going to be a food problem. On the islands the
food problem is going to last for about two months, but inland, it might
take a longer time, depending on how fast the current rising flood waters
take to drain away and how much damage they have done to food ground
crops used by villagers.
Definitely it is time to cry for help from outside resources. Time to
throw in the towel! Pride is only good so far, time to forget pride, eat
a little humility and ask for help, and start asking for donations from
the outside world. Rice, beans, flour, and the basics of a Caribbean
diet are going to be needed in quantities of tons for abaout six months.
Where will it come from and who will pay? Not an envious position to be
in, for the politicians in Belmopan with a debt ridden government of a
billion Belize dollars. They have done a wonderful Hurricane Emergency
Management job so far, but now, what next?
Do we have any friends out there in the International community?
Going to be interesting to watch and see.
by Ray Auxillou of the
Belize Development Trust of Caye Caulker.