Major flooding in the north; San Antonio Village cut off from Orange Walk Town
The waters of the Rio Hondo continue to rise, creating serious problems for communities along its banks. In the rural community of San Antonio, located just twenty minutes from Orange Walk Town, the road has been impassable to regular traffic for a week now. Residents are not unduly fazed just yet. Flooding is seasonal, and they say a truly big flood sweeps through the village every five years. So far the situation hasn’t reached crisis stage, but it is a great inconvenience, and the waters continue to rise. Mike Rudon travelled to the peaceful, waterlogged community early this morning and has the story.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
The community of San Antonio is located at the end of this stretch of dry, dusty road. As difficult as it may be to comprehend, in just seconds the parched artery gives way to an incredible stretch of water. That water is the spawn of the swollen Rio Hondo, and completely covers the road and its surrounds for almost two miles.
Villagers and visitors to the community must first travel at least half a mile in a trailer pulled by a sturdy tractor. That service is free. Enterprising residents in canoes have also made good use of the flood waters, offering taxi service to those in more of a hurry…for a small fee of course. More for the experience than anything, we paid up and climbed in. In seconds we were gliding across deep waters where just a week ago there was a visible road.
The second part of the journey was also by boat, bigger this time, and with an engine for the deeper, longer stretch of water leading up to the community. Our guide offered us a quick tour in the river. The community was still, for the most part high and dry, but not by a great margin. Some homes nearer the bank are already under water, which have forced at least six families to seek shelter.
Isela Wade, Chairlady, San Antonio
“We have two families in the Adventist Church, we have one in the community center and we have one by an old school building, he is a person who rather be alone…and it is used as a shelter as well.”
Carmen Jones, Residing in Shelter
“Well my house is one of the first ones that water gets into. I need to takeout all my things from the house so is not to lose them. I have been in the center for four days.”
Carmen Jones, her husband and four children moved into the shelter on Independence Day. She estimates that it will take a month before she’s back home. Because she has a latrine which is also under water, her yard and home will have to be properly dry, cleaned and disinfected before her family moves back. That is a health concern for other residents as well.
It takes about a month for the water to go down. It usually reaches about three quarters high. They ask us to wait a month for us to go back for hygienic reasons.”
“It’s always a concern because the water then is infected. So what we try to do as parents, as adults, as teachers, we tell children not to go in the water. And it was a great help yesterday because the health workers went to the school and told them… you know what if you are playing in the water, worms can go through your feet, fungus and your foot can get infected…you can get sick. So we don’t see any students or children playing in the water.”
The Health Department has been monitoring the situation and offering assistance, educating residents on the cleaning of water used for cooking, washing, bathing and drinking.
“Yesterday we had the health department, we had the clinic, we had a doctor; she prescribed medicine. We have a few that has cold and we don’t have any fever or any vomiting. But that’s what they are trying to do, trying to prevent any illness. They went house to house educating people that they need to put at least to five gallons of water; that’s one bucket, half teaspoon of clorox and that would prevent any kind of illness, any kind of bacteria inside of us. And not only to wash dishes, but also to bathe with it.”
Other than health issues which are still under control, the greatest concern remains the roadway which accesses Orange Walk Town and parts beyond. Lydia Melhado has lived in San Antonio for sixty-three years, and says the flood isn’t the worst she has seen, but it does affect residents.
Lydia Melhado, Resident
“We can’t come out to Orange Walk because a lot of water and I can’t go to Orange Walk because I fraid for the water. I got wah sore in my foot and so that’s why I noh come out from yah. Lotta people can’t go to work and then dehn have to stay in the house. Belize is like an island; all around it got water and yo can’t come out to work. You have to stay until all the flood done, then yo got to get to work.”
While many of the residents cannot easily get to work, we needed to, and started back. After a ride back in the skiff, we decided to forgo the taxi-canoes and experience a ride in the back of the trailer. For us, it was a good experience and a trip we enjoyed, but if the waters continue to rise, as is forecast…the hardship for residents of San Antonio will continue to mount, as steadily as the waters overflowing the banks. Mike Rudon for News Five.
Nearby communities of San Roman Rio Hondo and Douglas are also reporting serious flooding as the waters of the river continue to swell.