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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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We have been following the aftermath of the two massive earthquakes in Mexico and the wreckage that Hurricane Maria left behind in the Caribbean, especially in the island nation of Dominica.

Well, NEMO and its partners want to ensure that if any such disasters hit Belize or nearby, they will be as ready as they can be. Today NEMO along with Belize Electricity Company Limited (BECOL) staged a multi-disaster simulation in Santa Elena and San Ignacio. It was a complete run through of their disaster plan from early morning warning messages to monitoring, and, of course, on the ground response. Courtney Weatherburne and cameraman Codie Norales went out west to be a part of the action. Here is that story.

Courtney Weatherburne reporting
The students at St. Ignatius School in San Ignacio got a chance to get out of their classrooms this morning. But they weren't on any outdoor activity or field trip, they were evacuated from school and taken to higher ground.

The piercing fire station alarm signaled NEMO's and BECOL's disaster simulation exercise. The siren alerts residents that there has been a break in the Chalillo Dam and all residents, in this case, students, were taken immediately to what are known as safe zones.

Shelton Defour, National Emergency Coordinator
"Well basically today is to ensure that BECOL and that Cayo district emergency plan is tested. We looked at the response procedures and the various mechanisms to ensure that once the dam breaks people know exactly what to do because the priority for NEMO is to save lives."

The alarm blared in flood prone downriver communities like Bullet Tree, Cristo Rey, Santa Familia, Calla Creek among others in Santa Elena and San Ignacio.

Two Bullet Tree schools were also evacuated and taken to safety.

Ted Pate, Maintenance Superintendent, BECOL
"BECOL operates the three main hydro stations on the Macal River and as such we are mandated under our ECP to have in place an environmental response plan. This emergency plan ensures public safety downstream in the event of any flood situation or emergency resulting from a flood situation."

"The dam at Chalillo is a roller compacted dam that was engineered to withstand major flood conditions so there are other situations like, of course, extreme seismic activity, extreme flood situations and even terrorist attacks that could affect a facility like Chalillo. However, we do not anticipate any kind of immediate damage to the structure, it would be gradual."

Regardless of how gradual the effects will be, it's better to be prepared for the worst case scenario. But a dam break isn't the only emergency the team is preparing for - at the command base, district coordinators and public officers have been up from early assessing other major threats.

Shelton Defour, National Emergency Coordinator
"It looked at also the nuclear plant catching fire in Mexico, the Laguna Verde, Mexico and the Utila Volcano on the island of Utila off the Honduran coast actually erupting. So, it was a multiple scenario if you wish with earthquakes, hurricane, the Laguna Verde."

"In the event of a chemical spill or some chemical fire if you are in doors you want to turn off your AC and fans, lay down on the ground, make sure you close the windows and doors, if that plume or smoke will come into your area obviously you will need to evacuate from that zone."

And to add to the multiple disaster scenario, there was a major accident near the wooden bridge. Within minutes, firemen and police were on the scene for the live simulation.

Shelton Defour, National Emergency Coordinator
"Well what happened people speeding across the bridge they ran into each other, several persons were flung from the vehicle and the vehicles caught fire, one person was trapped in the vehicle so they had to out the fire and they had to rescue the people from the vehicle and at the same time, rescue the person in the river."

Ted Pate, Maintenance Superintendent, BECOL
"The whole importance of this exercise is to ensure that people are aware of the system we have in place to evacuate these areas and that they follow the instructions given by NEMO so that they could remain safe in the event of an emergency."

After the simulation, the team will meet and assess overall performance.

Channel 7


Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,461
K
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K
It will. Shoddy construction on a geological fault line.


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