Last night we told you that the National Emergency Management Organization had warned of very serious rains. And, overnight, those rains arrived, bringing with them the rising waters that have inundated western and southern Belize.

As we told you earlier, communities at greatest risk for flooding are Gales Point, Mullins River Village, Hope Creek, Sarawee, Sittee River, Monkey River, Bella Vista, San Pedro Colombia, Big Falls, Santa Teresa, Blue Creek, San Benito Poite, Crique Sarco, Sundaywood, and Conejo Creek.

This afternoon Cherisse Halsall looked west at one portion of the country where the flash floods have already taken their toll.

The rainfall associated with hurricane ETA have created rising floodwaters all over Belize.

Nowhere is this more apparent than San Ignacio, where as you can see the low lying bridge, that last night was being threatened by the rising river has been completely submerged. This afternoon we got an update on the flooding from the Mayor of the twin towns, Earl Trapp.

Cherisse Halsall:
"Tell me a bit about what the damage that the floods have been causing in San Ignacio because I know that right now, the low lying bridge seems to be non-existent. And we're hearing that succotz as well it's starting to flood."

Earl Trapp. Mayor, San Ignacio and Santa Elena
"Succotz, right? Yes, basically, I'm the heavy rains that have been persisting for the past two days have been bringing on inconveniences to the residents of San Ignacio and Santa Elena and country by extension."

"This morning, since this morning, about 30 town council personnel have been evacuating and informing people from the market to, to move out because of the threats from the flood waters are rising rapidly. So the market managers went out early about two this morning and called the market vendors and asked them to move out as quick as possible as the water was quickly rising. So since this morning, our guys have been active in that area."

"Yeah, what what this is because of the torrential rains the rainfall and they xfwhat causes that what what what affects us most is because of the fact that we have two rivers, the Mopan and the Macal river, and when both rivers begin to swell, then the Mopan river causes the Macal river, basically, so it's a reverse effects the water begins to to back up since it cannot. It cannot run quickly, where it forms the Belize old river that's where everything begins to buck and the water stops flowing as free as it would not as it would normally do and begins to backup. And then that's where the inundation begins."

"So because both rivers will be swollen, it is expected that the water will take a much longer time to subside."

Cherisse Halsall:
"What is the word that you received from NEMO since Last night, and how much of that has been communicated to the residents of both towns?"

Earl Trapp. Mayor, San Ignacio and Santa Elena
"I must say that NEMO's personnel have been monitoring this storm since, basically its inception. And they have been warning people in the low lying areas, I must say that I spoke to a couple of the families in the low lying areas that were affected are affected at the moment regarding the fact that NEMO had called him Monday and advised them to move to higher grounds, but they refuse to heed the call, I also will say that NEMO has been on the ground and advising people to move to higher grounds."

And while San Ignacio is far away from Belize City, many are wondering if the rains will once again approach To Beaver Dam Bridge Washed Out, Western Belize an Island sever the link between the City and Capital. That's the question we put to Senior Chief Engineer Irving Thimbrel but he's confident that there won't be any such problem.

Irving Thimbrel, National maintenance coordinator
"We don't anticipate that we're going to have any problems, we have two existing culverts that remain from the original culverts. a part that provides a cavern under the color of that structure that is a loan for the free flow of water to pass from one section to the next. So we don't anticipate a large buildup of water but the water does fill up the spaces in between this stones that are there, the large stones will allow for water to pass in between the structure as well. So it's got to be an extreme event, thats beyond our control up to then remove that structure from there."

And Thimbrel says that there are ongoing works at the site as the Ministry of works makes sure to shore up the structure against the floodwaters.

Irving Thimbrel, National maintenance coordinator
"The rains, because it's all in and hardcore. And as it continues to rain, it affects the materials and material cannot resist by itself. So we have to continuously go out there and make adjustments. So what we are doing right now we are making adjustments so that the traffic control over the area without any kind of problem at all."

What happened in June was in fact an extreme event with the rainfall that fell in two hours being 5 times the national average for that season. Today Thimbrel called that a very extreme event one that he doesn't anticipate a repeat of.

The National Hydrological Service says that on the Macal River reservoir levels at Mollejon and Vaca facilities are above the spillway. At San Ignacio, levels are about 3.5m meters above the low-level bridge and rising.

On the MOPAN RIVER at Benque Viejo Town Flood levels are about half a foot below the Historical Keith stage, and this station continues to rise.

On the Belize River, at Banana Bank and Double Run levels are approaching Flood Stage and rising.

The Sittee River at Kendal Bridge is approaching Flood stage and rising steadily.

And just in footage from one of our viewers showing a temporary bridge in mountain Pine Ridge impassable and on the verge of being washed away.

Channel 7

Intense Flooding in Western Belize

Eta is now downgraded to a tropical storm after making landfall in Nicaragua as a dangerous category four hurricane.  As it moves at seven miles per hour, it is producing heavy rainfall and severe flooding in Belize and other parts of Central America and is forecasted to reorganize and strengthen in the days to come in the western Caribbean.  The western area of Belize has been experiencing intense flooding with water rising significantly to dangerous levels. Today, News Five’s Duane Moody headed west and has the following report.

Duane Moody, Reporting

Over the last three days, rains have been pounding the entire country, but more so the Belize, Cayo, Stann Creek and Toledo Districts as hurricane Eta neared Nicaragua.  Eta has since reduced to a tropical storm but its impact continue to be felt in Belize. Out west, the Macal and Mopan Rivers began flooding overnight and by this morning, a community behind the San Ignacio Hospital was locked off.  Santiago Requeña woke up to over two feet of water in his house.

Santiago Requeña, Evacuee

“About four o’clock this morning I got up to use the restroom and well, as I get off of my bed, I feel my foot wet; maybe about two feet already. So I start pack up; I wake up everybody, start pack up and start evacuate. I haul out my stuff more to the higher level and then I swim out. I tried to come out on motorcycle, but it was too deep so I had to swim out. It was about seven-foot already high. I had to swim out and try to get some help to bring up my family out. I went way down to Santa Familia and tried to borrow a canoe to bring my family out.”

…as early as four o’clock, distress calls were being made by residents in several areas. Responding to the call was Santa Elena resident Alberto Palma and his family who got hold of canoes and began moving people out of their homes and to safety.

They were later joined by NEMO and the B.D.F. who continued with the evacuation exercise. Except for a couple, by midday today, all families had been rescued and taken to shelters; others opted to stay with relatives.

Earl Trapp, Mayor, San Ignacio/Santa Elena

“We have two communities that are being evacuated at the moment. We have NEMO personnel, we have the police department, san Ignacio Town Council personnel and some other people that are assisting to evacuate the people from that area. The one immediately behind the hospital is about four families, but the one in the other community, it is a lot more families. I just had to assist NEMO with a couple canoes and that’s where the B.D.F. personnel are assisting to pull them out right now.”

Water levels continue to rise; streams and creeks are overflowing and the low-lying wooden bridge that connects the twin towns is submerged under six feet of water. As the rain persists, the situation is expected to get worse so Mayor Earl Trapp says that market vendors have already been relocated to the Falcon Field Park.

Earl Trapp

“From two o’clock this morning, I received a call from the market manager, town council personnel and he has been mobilising the people and their goods, moving them away from that area because the water began to rise rapidly and he was called so he began making the necessary calls and the people began mobilizing from two o’clock this morning. There is a plan to relocate the farmers to the Falcon Field temporarily because we expect the water will rise all the way to about Welcome Centre. The volume of water coming from Guatemala side will swell up the Mopan River and in turn that water will cause the Macal River to back up. That water will not be able to flow and that will cause the downtown area to flood.”

As we made our way back to the city, we stopped in at the Iguana Creek Bridge where that too was under water and this main access road to the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout was closed until further notice.

Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer, Ministry of Works

“You have roads off the George Price Highway for example the Iguana Creek Bridge. That is closed. That is under flood conditions. Branch Mouth, Cable Bridge – that is under water. You have Baking Pot Ferry, that is closed. You have the low level timber that spans the Macal River between San Ignacio and Santa Elena that is closed.”

Further east, in Roaring Creek, the water is rising rapidly at the popular swimming area. Resident, Shermie Nunez says that they have been monitoring the situation and within a span of hours, the water level has gone up drastically.

Shermie Nunez, Resident, Roaring Creek Village

“Since last night, we’ve been monitoring the rising of the water because usually the water rises very fast. Since this morning, I came to check it and then we came back and it rise two steps already covered so we know that it is rising very, very quickly. What we are worried about is snakes and animals because usually when the water rises, animals and stuff they look for dry area so they go to the nearby house. We live like a stone’s throw away and the water always goes in our yard. So I guess this time, it is going to be something very serious.”

It is expected that water levels are going to increase even further in the next couple of days. NEMO is asking for all residents to take the necessary precautions to stay safe during this time. But even though it is early to determine the extent of the devastation so far, evacuee, Santiago Requeña says his family has lost everything to the flood.

Santiago Requeña

“I couldn’t get out anything at all, at all; just a few clothes, but nothing much, everything just stay inside. I lost everything inside.”

Shermie Nunez

“We have our canoe, everything; flashlights in case the water keep rising during the night while we are asleep. We just have to be prepared. And I am asking everybody who lives close to low-lying areas, creek side and river side to be safe and monitor this water because it is not to play with.”

Water Levels in Southern Belize Not at Flood Stage

In the south, some areas are reporting that the sea level is rising onto beaches and into their businesses and properties. News Five has received images from Placencia where there are several inches of water inside a popular watering hole, as water levels continue to rise, covering parts of the beach. On Tobacco Caye, the wind is fierce and sea levels have also gone up. There has been no evacuation in the south, except for Punta Negra Village where on Tuesday, twenty-three persons were removed and taken to Punta Gorda, to stay with relatives.  The Emergency Operation Centre in the south is up and running as residents are being advised to prepare and take necessary precautions. Interestingly though, Parham says that while there have been rains in Toledo, an inspection of the waterways in the area shows that water levels along creeks, rivers and streams are still not at flood stage.

On the Phone: Kenton Parham, Southern Regional Coordinator, NEMO

“Currently, we have reached out to our communities in the flood prone areas and made sure that they were ready. We delivered supplies to them this afternoon and we are just monitoring the weather condition, river levels and the emergency operation centre will keep functioning and open throughout the storm.”

Hipolito Novelo

“Has DEMO Toledo received any reports of flooding in other communities?”

On the Phone: Kenton Parham

“Currently, our river levels are below flood stage. We have been receiving rain periodically, off and on—it’s overcast and cloudy—but so far, our rivers are not at flood stage.”

Ministry of Works Reports Flooding Across Road Network

Given the heavy and persistent rains and flooding in the western and southern parts of the country, the Ministry of Works has commenced an assessment of the road network. Chief Engineer Officer Lennox Bradley says the ministry recognizes the vulnerability of certain sections of the highways across the country.  The volume of waters over the past three days is causing problems to infrastructure.  Bradley says that certain sections of the highways have been closed to traffic.

Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer, Ministry of Works

“We have been receiving persistent rainfall in the Cayo District in the past two days possibility and I think the Belize City area possibility a bit longer than that. Indeed it has created some problems because the volume of waters that we have received in the past three days undoubtedly will have its impact on our road network. Belize City some parts of it already feeling the impact of the volume of water that has fallen over three past three days. The George Price Highway, you have roads off the George Price Highway for example the Iguana Creek Bridge. That is closed. That is under flood conditions. Branch Mouth, Cable Bridge – that is under water. You have Baking Pot Ferry, that is closed. You have the low level timber that spans the Macal River between San Ignacio and Santa Elena that is closed. From all indications from the Met Office the rains will continue for at least the next day until this tropic storm or depression ETA passes through. So we will have to be monitoring our roads during this time period. There are areas that are under flood conditions that we cannot do anything to restore access until the water recedes. Areas where we feel we can intercede to try improve the conditions for the motorists we are doing so. The Ministry of Works in currently monitoring and doing some estimates for areas that we feel can rectify as soon as the water subsides.”

Mile 1½ on George Price Highway Being Destroyed by Rain Waters

Closer to Belize City, near mile one and a half, the rains have caused waters to spill over the highway. The overflow is gutting two sections of the highway, making it almost impassable for small vehicles. The Ministry of Works is aware of the situation and Chief Engineer Officer Lennox Bradley says that the water has been unable to run to the catchment area of Krooman Lagoon. He says that lack of proper drainage and recent infrastructural developments in the area have caused this problem. 

Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer, Ministry of Works

“We also have another section on the George Price Highway on concern between mile one and one and a half approaching Belize City. That is a situation where progress brings problems. Areas that used to serve as catchment areas the Krooman Lagoon and another catchment area long that section of the road; people are filling up their lands so the water does not go to where it used to go before. So it is something that the dilemma that ministry will have to look at. It is not an overnight solution. But it is something that we will have to address. We are looking at possible areas where we have to drain it and of course the road will have to be lifted a bit. A lot of entrance along that section of the highway don’t have culverts. The drain is completely filled up because some people in filling up their land also filled up the drains. This is where we need to cooperation from the public. The highways have to be open. Drainage is paramount and when you block drainage you inconvenience a lot of travelers who use the highways.”

Channel 5