Was An Inexperienced NEMO Asleep At The Wheel?
June 3rd, 2008 Posted in News | No Comments »
The government of Dean Barrow immediately after winning the general elections, went into a frenzied campaign to replace many civil service veterans with UDP cronies in what can only be characterized as major victimization at the civil service level. The critical NEMO (National Emergency Management Organization) was one of the victims of these post-election personnel changes.
Highly experienced and tested veterans — for example, Jim Janmohammed of San Pedro, a man who has presided over at least seven major hurricanes and storms that have threatened or hit Belize yet which have resulted in orderly evacuations and no casualties — was replaced as the head of NEMO Islands by a UDP crony by the name of Kevin Gonzalez, a virtual amateur in terms of emergency management experience.
In a press conference today, meteorologist Ramon Frutos went on record as saying that he notified NEMO of imminent flash floods and possible mud slides in the Toledo and Southern Belize areas from Friday at midday. The only reaction from a lethargic NEMO was to send out a release on Saturday declaring Belize under a Tropical Storm Warning — and this ONLY after NEMO was urged to do so by the Hurricane Center in Miami. There was no mention in the NEMO press release about any imminent flash flooding or possible mud slides.
Yet, the man behind NEMO, the Hon. Melvin Hulse, rather than answer to the media today the question of why NEMO didn’t send out a warning and why NEMO was not activated until after the fact became enraged and lashed out at journalists telling them they needed to stop “finding fault” because the flash flooding was “a freak of nature” — an imminent “freak of nature” which we need to point out to the Hon. Melvyn Hulse that Mr. Frutos at the MET office made NEMO aware of from Friday afternoon.
The Hon. Melvyn Hulse as head of NEMO was the single person responsible for dropping the ball. His (and as a result NEMO’s) inaction directly contributed to the crisis and the tragic situations villagers in Southern Belize found themselves in early Monday morning.
Rather than take responsibility for his bad decisions born from incompetence, negligence and gross inexperience, Hon. Melvyn Hulse chose instead to scold the media, no matter that journalist after journalist keep pointing to the fact that NEMO was not activated until after the fact.
The international media, and especially the primary U.S. weather websites sent releases warning of the possibility of “up to 20 inches of rain”, imminent flash flooding and mud slides from as far back as five days before the fact. Here is a release from the Weather Underground website that was released as early as May 29, 2008 (last week Thursday).
From the Weather Underground website at http://www.wund.com/tropical/29 May 2008
Caribbean Sea…Tropical Depression One-E is expected to produce total rainfall amounts of 10 to 15 inches over portions of Central America from Costa Rica NW through portions of Nicaragua…Honduras…El Salvador…and Guatemala. Isolated maximum storm total amounts of 20 inches are possible in areas of higher terrain. These rains may produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.
…the Caribbean remains fairly active this morning due to the presence of two tropical waves as well as a tropical system in the E Pacific off the W coast of Costa Rica. Broad upper ridge dominates the Caribbean with the upper high located over the Tropical Depression One-E in the E Pacific. This system is also generating a broad area of lower surface pressure over the W Caribbean. Clusters of scattered moderate/strong convection are from 12n-17n W of 74w to the coast of Nicaragua. Clusters of scattered showers/isolated thunderstorms also cover the area S of the Greater Antilles W of 73w to inland over Central America and to the coast of Nicaragua.
Here at the Caye Caulker Chronicles we believe Minister Hulse should be immediately replaced as the head of NEMO. It is our belief that Minister Hulse’s inaction and inexperience directly contributed to the human catastrophe as a result of TS Arthur. He is virtual embarassment, in our opinion.