Tonight, Eta is churning toward the Caribbean, but it is leaving behind a rising death toll in Guatemala and Honduras. The storm, which is one of the worst to affect the region, is dumping torrential rains across Belize, causing extensive damages to crops and property – the extent of which will be discussed by Prime Minister Barrow, who is holding a rare Saturday morning press conference. Rising water levels are causing inundations in many communities as river banks overflow.
The west is taking a pounding as the torrents of rains have been pouring for days. At the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena, the gushing waters rose to levels not seen before. The Welcome Centre was submerged by water and people had to be taken to shelters for their safety. Here is News Five’s Hipolito Novelo with a report.
Hipolito Novelo, Reporting
Downtown San Ignacio remains under water; as much as eight to ten feet of flood waters , as Tropical Depression Eta heads towards the north of Caribbean, away from Belize. Over the past few days, the heavy torrential rains battered the west, causing the Mopan and Macal Rivers to rise drastically and dangerously. This is an aerial view of San Ignacio, much under water. And from the flood waters’ surface, from inside a canoe, this resident paddles through downtown. David’s Adventures Tour is almost completely underwater. The sign of Belle’s Delight is the only visible portion of the business. The waters are roof high.
The flooding is unprecedented and highly unexpected. Families have been evacuated as the water continues to rise. Mayor Earl Trapp says that with the assistance of NEMO about fifty persons have been evacuated and taken to the Bishop Martin Primary School for shelter.
Earl Trapp, Mayor, Santa Elena/San Ignacio
“People have been calling to be rescued and evacuated and we again engaged the proper department NEMO and NEMO again has been out there working in trying to place the people to the shelters.”
“In terms of the shelters, how many people have been evacuated?”
“We have one shelter opened as far as I am concerned at the Bishop Martin Primary School in Bullet Tree Road. That is what is being used at the moment. If I am not mistaken, our last count, our numbers that I heard was a little over fifty people displaced there already and more people were being evacuating.”
The Welcome Center is flooded and so are many of the businesses in downtown San Ignacio. Business owners are advised to empty their stores and secure their merchandise. Some did, transporting washing machines and stoves on a canoe to higher ground.
“When water was reaching the Welcome Center and we it was rising rapidl then BEL had to be called in to disconnect their wires. We had to again inform the business owners that they need to evacuate the Welcome Center and the downtown San Ignacio. We were going door to door again yesterday before the water reached the welcome center but while some people heed the call others were reluctant and hoping that waters would not reach their establishment, unfortunately water reached their established while they were away and when they arrived water was already on the floor thus making it more difficult for them to pull out their merchandise. I am sure many of the goods got wet. So it means that it will be a loss for the business that did not heed the call.”
Severe flooding is being experienced in other areas of the Cayo District. This is San Jose Succotz- the Mopan River has taken over the highway. In Santa Familia, the water level continues to rise. This is a bird’s eye view of Bullet Tree Village, completely underwater.
“People from Calla Creek, Bullet Tree Area, people living along the river bank have been displaced. Like I mentioned to some people this morning many of those people have family members where they have been using to shelter. When we talk about people most affected here in San Ignacio I would say it is most the business people, the business sector. For example the market vendors had to be relocated to the Falcon Field. You will see that basically eighty percent of the market vendors, maybe more are here at the Falcon Field. The other businesses are the people directly downtown because we have other businesses in Santa Elena but they are much higher. It is only people more down by the river bank and the immediate downtown area.”
Roads leading to Bullet Tree and Santa Familia are impassable. Spanish Lookout is not accessible via Valley of Peace road. The Calla Creek and the More Tomorrow roads are also under water and impassable. The water continues to rise and it is expected that in the next twenty-four hours, the rains will continue and the situation will worsen. Mayor Trapp says that the Council stands ready to continue to assist residents.
“Since five o’clock I called the sanitation crew since they begin working at five and I sent them to the downtown area to assist the different business and people that were out there to salvage some of the equipment to give a hand. We were using the tractor and the trailer to ferry people out and their equipment. We have been using our backhoes or manpower to alleviate some of the drainage conditions as well. That has been ongoing since Monday. We have been working with the backhoe, and trying clear up the culvers and clearing out some more drains and to avoid water from directly flowing into people’s yard. So we have been doing that.”
…and during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Trapp says that his employees continue to be careful.
“Because of the rain conditions, and the flooding and we have to clusters we ask them to be careful. I can tell you that this morning in point in had to tell them they would be going in an area where it is alleged that certain people are COVID-19. So I told them it is best we leave that to NEMO personnel who have the expertise to deal with it because at the end of the day I wouldn’t want anyone to get infected with the virus. They know very well that they need to be careful out there. What I told them as well is that ensure that they always shave gloves on, their masks and if there are any bags that are burst in the streets they need to use a rake and a container to pick up and still thereafter they need to sanitize their hands with Clorox and water.”
…and the waters continue to rise. The northern approach to the New Bridge on Loma Luz Boulevard has begun flooding as the Macal river surges.
We also headed to San Ignacio which was hard hit and completely flooded when the torrential rains started last week. It was so bad, only the roof of the Welcome Centre, one of the landmarks in San Ignacio, could be seen on aerial footage. The waters are now flowing to the Belize River Valley and a massive clean-up is underway in San Ignacio to restore some normalcy to the town.