As we reported at the top of the news, flood waters continue to rise in the Belize and Orange Walk Districts. While residents in some affected areas have reluctantly evacuated, there has been a mass exodus from Douglas Village in the Orange Walk District. More than 80% of the village which comprises over a hundred families have already left – and the remaining few also plan to leave. That is because the Rio Hondo River continues to rise and it has now submerged the small village – located just 12 miles outside of Orange Walk Town. Keith Swift and cameraman Alex Ellis travelled to Douglas by road and then as has been the norm – toured the village in a canoe.
Keith Swift Reporting,
This looks like a giant lake but as the goal posts indicate, what you’re actually looking at is the football field in Douglas Village. The football field as well as the community center, the church, and well most homes, some of which only the roofs are visible, are now under water.
To give you an idea of the depth and the magnitude here in Douglas Village, we are in an canoe paddling and travelling in high water through what used to be the village’s streets and yards. But now there is just water which is why Village Chairman Carlos Zetina says Douglas is a virtual ghost town. Imagine this – 110 families have already fled.
Carlos Zetina, Douglas Village Chairman
“We have about half of the family members. We have right now presently in the shelter in Nuevo San Juan here we have 6 families and in San Pablo Community Center we have 11 families and all the rest are scattered about in nearby villages with their families and friends.”
Julio Martinez along with his wife and six kids now call these tents home. Today when we visited they were cutting leaves to make tamales. That’s interesting – considering that they are basically homeless with no running water, no electricity, and no choice.
Julio Martinez, Evacuated from Douglas
“He doesn’t have anywhere else to go, any family member that can give him a house.”
Six families are staying in the school in San Juan.
This is home for you right now?
Fidel Mendez, Evacuated from Douglas
“Yes and I have 8 children. I don’t like it but we have to stay because we have to sleep and everything right here.”
At the primary school in San Pablo – 11 families from Douglas have sought refuge.
Alberta Ku, Evacuated from Douglas
“It is me, my husband and my two daughters.”
What’s the situation with your home in Douglas?
“It is terrible. I’ve been here since Monday.”
What is it like being here?
“It is not a good feeling, it is not like your house.”
How is it affecting your daughter who is only a year old?
“She can’t sleep because of too much noise.”
Mr. Eligio how long have you been at the shelter?
Roland Eligio, Evacuated from Douglas
“Two weeks now.”
What is the situation with your home?
“Oh it is very bad. The house has about three feet of water in it.”
How many of your family members are staying here?
“Three of them.”
What have the last two weeks been like?
“Well in here not too bad. It is very good because we’re safe here.”
And they may be there a while. There are now concerns that because of the fact that the toilets in Douglas are all outside - the village may have to be quarantined.
“We find that the village is getting flooded, everything, and therefore the persons there are very concerned whether they will have to evacuate everybody, whether a quarantine will be set for them. So right now here in Nuevo San Juan the persons who were evacuated, we will have assistance from the health department and we thank them for that.”
So you said the village may be quarantined?
“Yeah they are looking further at that but up to now they haven’t set a quarantine.”
And the quarantine – like the future – is uncertain for Douglas villagers. Alex Mazariego and his family packed up all their belongings in the back of this truck and were heading out – not knowing if they’ll have a place to call home for Christmas.
Alex Mazariego, Fleeing Douglas
“Actually sad because really December is coming so we already have thought in mind that December we might spend it out of the village so that is one of the sad parts of everything.”
So when do you expect to move back in?
“Well actually maybe the end of December or January.”
You don’t expect to spend Christmas at home?
“Actually no, I don’t think so.”
And that is because right now the only certainty is that the water will be there for a while.
Regarding the issue of quarantining the village because all the toilets have overflowed, the situation is being followed closely by the Public Health Department but no decision has been made. That is one of the main reasons why villagers are leaving. We note that a public health inspector has been posted in the area.
Today there were also more evacuations from Santa Cruz, San Antonio, and San Roman.http://www.7newsbelize.com/sstory.php?nid=12540