Travel on the Western and Northern Highways remains perilous tonight as parts of both roads are still under flood waters. An assessment by the Ministry of Works dated Sunday November second lists flood waters at mile 4, miles 9 and 10, and miles 10 and 11 on the Western Highway. At mile 4 the depth is 6 inches and between miles 9 and 10 there are spots where it is 5 inches deep.
On the Northern Highway there are four areas of concern when crossing: the first is between miles 2 and a half and mile 3, the second is at mile 4, the third between miles 16 and 17, and the fourth between miles 22 and 23 near Gardenia Village where the water is said to be 8 inches deep. At mile 4 on the Northern Highway near Driftwood Bay, the water is 10 inches deep.
At most spots the water is stable and Minister of Works Anthony Boots Martinez says engineers are closely monitoring the situation. He says that as soon as the waters recede – both roads will be re-paved.
Hon. Anthony Boots Martinez, Minister of Works
“It is about 320 acres of land affected on the Northern Highway and it is about 1,800 homes and businesses affected by the flood. We are working tirelessly night and day to try to rescue the situation to at least make the road maintain open and passable.
On the Northern Highway we have as you know between miles 3 and 4, just before Haulover Bridge, we have had some terrible washout. The road there has some big craters and we have installed two sets of culverts. We are in the process of installing one more across the Northern Highway, one of the culverts leading to a canal by Maheia’s United there and we are waiting for the waters to recede. But in the interim with the potholes that we have out there, we have put over 12 loads of hardcore out there and we continue to put more. That is just a temporary fix. When that recedes we will scarify that area, all the way down to the bridge, from the bridge down back; we will scarify the area and pave the area back.
We are terribly concerned and we have the highways being broken up and the Prime Minister has made a commitment for us to really deal with the proper infrastructure for the country.”
The report from the Ministry of Works notes that streets in Belama Phases 3 and 4 remain under water, in some cases 2 feet of it and that the recently installed culverts and, quote “not really reducing water levels in the Belama phases 3 and 4 as anticipated.”
On Sunday in the River Valley area, the Boom Hattieville Road is still under 4 feet of water and is impassable. The Boom cut off road is under 5 feet and also impassable. Water is falling at the Rancho Dolores Bridge and the Lemonal Road but both remain closed. The Flowers Bank road has 8 inches of water but it has been reopened.
In the Orange Walk District, the streets in Douglas Village are now under 2 feet of water and 50% of the village is under water. Elsewhere, the San Roman Road, the Yo Creek-San Antonio Road, Orange Walk-Blue Creek Road, and the Honey Camp Road-Dubloon Causeway are all closed to traffic.
23 Communities Declared Disaster Areas
23 villages and communities in the Belize and Orange Walk Districts have been declared disaster areas. They are Crooked Tree, Willows Bank, Bamboo Patch, Maypen, Lemonal, Flowers Bank, Isabella Bank, Rancho Dolores, Grace Bank, St. Paul’s Bank, Bomba, Burrell Boom, Western Pines at mile 8, Freetown Sibun, Lord’s Bank, and Rhaburn Ridge.
In the Orange Walk District, Blue Creek, Trial Farm, San Roman, San Antonio, Santa Cruz, and Douglas Villages as well as the Louisiana, Santa Familia, and Smithsonian communities within the town have been declared disaster areas. The declarations are part of the initial damage assessment report from NEMO of tropical depression number 16 and the devastating floods that followed.
And though we haven’t had rain for almost a week, in some areas like San Roman, San Victor and Douglas Villages, the water is still rising according to the Met Office. In fact, this weekend, the water covered a portion of the Belize-Santa Elena Road near the northern border. And where the water is not rising, it is standing. Those waters still have much of the River Valley and parts of the Orange Walk District submerged.
According to the report 16,455 persons are in need of relief assistance. It notes that while only 297 persons are in shelters – it is likely that a far greater number have been displaced. 336 households, home to a total of 1,256 persons, have been directly impacted by the flooding. NEMO estimates hat in one way or another 36,880 persons were directly affected whether with transportation challenges, getting around their communities or attending school.
$22.5 million in Flood Related Damages and Counting
And while that is the human toll, the financial is another story. There is an initial estimate and we got it from Prime Minister Dean Barrow this morning.
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
“$22.5 million broken down as follows: $1.3 million household losses, $1.3 million in housing infrastructure losses, $10.4 million in road infrastructure and $9.5 million in agriculture. This is just for the eastern Cayo District and for the areas in the Belize District and the Orange Walk District.”
When does the recovery work begin?
Hon. Dean Barrow,
“Immediately. In Belama they’ve already dug additional canals, they are constructing a line channel in a particular area, they are putting in culverts, all in an effort to ensure that the drainage in Belama can operate so as to have the waters run off as quickly as possible. In terms of things like housing, with respect to repairs, with respect to the replacement of household items, that’s going to have to wait until the waters have fully receded. It makes no sense to try to do that at this point in time. Similarly with agriculture, except that we can begin to give some of the farmers cash transfers that will assist them in terms of simply being able to seek out a living between now and when the concentrated crop rehabilitation efforts begin.”
Have the social partners as yet given the government permission to use some of the Venezuelan money for housing repairs?
Hon. Dean Barrow,
“I need to check with the Deputy Prime Minister who is chair of the committee. He was to have gotten in touch with them after Cabinet on Tuesday. I haven’t had a chance to speak with him but I don’t imagine it is a problem and basically it is just a matter of respecting them and consulting but government ultimately can make the decision and I think government in the circumstances will be forced to make the decision.”
The report notes that 6,035 people have received a week’s supply of food and water. As Barrow mentioned a large part of the damage was to the country’s infrastructure, the roads and we’ll give you an update on the flooding on the Northern and Western Highways later on.