Floodwaters Continue to Inundate Crooked Tree Village
Tonight, there is water everywhere in rural Belize District and the Crooked Tree causeway is impassable. Residents leave or enter the village with the assistance of the Belize Coast Guard as the village is experiencing one of the worst floods. And to compound the issue, it will take months for the situation to improve. The fear is that the dangerous hurricane Iota will cause further flooding in the drenched community. Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano with a report.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Residents of Crooked Tree are having a difficult time entering and leaving the village, as floodwaters continue to inundate the causeway that provides access to the community. The raised path that abuts the Crooked Tree Lagoon is submerged, rendering it impassable. To get out or get in, one has to catch a ride on a coast guard vessel that traverses these waters on scheduled runs.
Marvin Crawford, Vice Chairman, Crooked Tree Village
“Each and every day we have to use boats and right now we are trying to get some skid to build a causeway so we could take the people from one point to the other.”
It is an inconvenience that commuters will have to live with for the next few months. On the outskirts of Crooked Tree vehicles are lined up on the side of the road and the only way in is by water.
“We have the coast guard in our village and they are doing a pretty good job and we thank God for them, you know, because they took the people from one point to the other every so often, in the morning and even during the night they are out here trying to help. So we really appreciate the help from the coast guard and we are getting some other help from different organizations.”
“How has this flooding situation affected the everyday lives of Crooked Tree people in terms of doing business and being able to move around freely and that sort of stuff?”
“Well at this moment, I would say this situation is affecting each and everyone because it is hard for us to move from one point to the other.”
The situation is dire. On one hand, the drowned land bridge had been scheduled for rehabilitation under the previous government. Twelve years have gone by and they never got around to it. On the other hand, there are areas within the village that are low-lying and as such are also taking in water.
“We have, I would say, too much water right now. All over the village, the village is just sectioned off with, you know, water. We only could get from one point to the other so we are trying to see how we could help the residents to move from one point to the other and that’s why we are over here right now trying to get some palettes. You know, the people from Belize, they are donating some palettes to us and we are trying to get them so we could build something to help the people, to get them out of the water.”
A generous donation of wooden palettes has been sent to the village where there are several locations along the road that are under water. It is the council’s hope that more businesses would donate the pieces of lumber so that walkways can be constructed.
“It is a bit impossible in the village to move around even by vehicle, so we are trying our best to see how we could get the people comfortable during this time because we know that this situation will probably be with us until January.”
“Now I gather [that] you’ve been a resident of Crooked Tree either all your life… Has this been the worst you’ve seen it?”
“No, not as yet. We’ve had worst than this before but I believe that the other weather that is out there should come this way, it would probably be worse than all the other ones.”
Residents fear that the deluge from Tropical Storm Eta that has essentially cut off Crooked Tree from the rest of the country will only get worse should Tropical Storm Iota also dump water in the western and central parts of the country. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.
Flooding in Burrell Boom; Several Families Evacuated, Shelter Opened
The situation is also dire in Burrell Boom where a number of homes along the Belize River Valley area remain under water. As was expected, water levels have been rising quickly in Burrell Boom and in some parts of the village, there is up to three feet of water inside houses and yards are inundated. Tonight, several families have been evacuated to higher ground; while some are staying with relatives, at least one family has been taken to a shelter in the village. News Five spoke with President of the Community Disaster Response Team for the village, Kimberly Seguro about the situation.
“The water is rising very fast here in Burrell Boom from the river. It is rising through the culvert; the river rise very high and then the water is coming through the culvert and it’s spreading all around in the yard.”
“I understand that some people’s houses are under water as well.”
Voice of: Kimberly Seguro
“Yes sir. We have two houses that are already under water. The water is half way in one of the house and quarter way in the other. The other houses water is getting flushed with the house bottom. I would say in our yard; it is like almost three feet high because if I step in the water, it is almost to my waist.”
“I understand that several persons have had to be evacuated because of this.”
Voice of: Kimberly Seguro
“Yes sir. There is a family that lives in the back. He is already getting ready to evacuate because the water is starting to get in his house beucase he also has a low house just like the other two where water had taken over.”
Nine families in Burrell Boom are flooded out as a portion of the main road in the village is submerged. Shelters in the Belize River Valley area remain open, as Iota is expected to dump more water on central and southern Belize. Today, aside from relief and supplies being issued by the National Emergency Management Organization in the area, residents are being advised to prepare for water levels to rise. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
The banks of the Belize River are overflowing and while floodwaters in villages such as Lemonal, Rancho Dolores and majority of the Belize River Valley are receding, a vast number of houses remain under water. The Crooked Tree Lagoon is also spilling over into the area and hundreds of residents have had to leave their homes for higher ground; many others are put up in designated shelters.
Alpheus Gillett, Belize Rural Coordinator, NEMO
“We have people in shelters. In crooked tree we have families in shelters. In Rancho Dolores and Lemonal, yes there are still people in shelters. The water from the west is already here. In some areas, the water is still rising, but at a very slow pace. But our major concern will be the next storm approaching us. So our job that we have been doing since yesterday and this morning, we are contacting all village leaders, all community leaders. We are warning them, asking them what is their plan, where will they move to; what will they do with their assets.”
Further down the river, in Burrell Boom, a portion of the main road, near the police station, is under about two to three feet of water and is impassable by small vehicles. It has flooded an area just across from Belize R Us and seven families or roughly twenty-five persons, including the Seguras, have to wade through three feet of water to get in and out of their houses. Some use a boat to traverse this area.
Itie Segura, Resident, Burrell Boom Village
“It started from the back at the lake, well the pond over that side. It raised and I wake up one morning and I woke up with fishes and water.”
“As in you set down your foot in water.”
“Yes sir. Like two inches of water and it was really devastating. Over there is like three feet of water; and then the farm also…our farm.”
“Everything is under water.”
Kimberly Seguro, President, Community Disaster Response Team, Burrell Boom
“From since Friday, the water level start rising up. I believe that with the rain, if we have rain like this for the next two to three days, definitely the water will come across the road. Right now the river is very high and because it is very high, it is on the curve and all the way up; coming into the culvert across and it gets into the pond. And because the pond is overfull has it like this in the yard. We have six houses under water right now in the yard. To get to the back where there is the next three houses, they have to use the canoe. They can’t walk there because the water is deep. If you walk to my house, the water is almost to my waist.”
Kimberly Segura is the President of the Community Disaster Response Team for the Burrell Boom Village. She has been monitoring the water levels and has been in close contact with NEMO.
“They do not want to come out and go to the shelters as yet. The shelters are already open. I am asking them to come out and move early; don’t wait till it is too late. The weather that is out there is calling for more rain and I know with more rain, we will get more water. I have been able to speak with them, but they don’t want to move as yet. Right now, I am trying to get in contact with people that live across the river and people who live down the road by the bridge and by Black Orchid.”
For some areas affected, relief and supplies are being distributed by NEMO; those include donations and pantry supplies from the Belize Red Cross. NEMO Belize Rural Coordinator, Alpheus Gillett says that they have been to most villages and today, they head to May Pen where some twenty families have been cut off from the rest of the district.
“Most of the villages within the Belize River Valley have seen some rise of water. In the Lemonal and Rancho the water is now receding, but in terms of relief and supplies for those communities, they have been provided with food supplies, water supplies and the assessment and the work continues.”
The National Emergency Management Organization is advising the public to be on the lookout for the possibility of flooding in some areas in the country. While the remnants of Hurricane Iota continue to move away, the system is expected to bring some rainfall for the country that may see flooding in low lying communities, as well as those near bodies of water. A release from NEMO and the Hydrology Unit says that additional rainfall is expected on Thursday with the highest amounts in the central and southern areas of the country. Today we spoke with the Hydrology Unit, as well as NEMO and CEMO. Here’s what they have to say.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
A flood warning is in effect for a number of regions across the country, as well as a flood watch for several downstream communities on the Rio Hondo; and a flash flood warning for southern communities in the wake of Hurricane Iota.
On the Phone: Tennielle Williams-Hendy, Principal Hydrologist
“We issued our flood forecast today with a flood warning in effect for rivers and streams, waterways in central, western and southern Belize, including San Ignacio, Benque, Banana Bank, Double Run, Crooked Tree, Belize River Valley, the surrounding communities and downstream to the coast which is Belize City. We also have a flood watch in effect for communities downstream on the Rio Hondo as well as a flash flood warning for rivers also in the south of the country.”
“So, for persons living in these areas, they must heed caution to these advisories?”
On the Phone: Tennielle Williams-Hendy
“Yes, they should. Actually, we have a flood warning in effect for all those rivers and streams and waterways in the western, central and southern parts of the country so they should monitor these systems and if they are living close to them and observing their behavior over the past couple weeks, they know that they can come in a quick second and they can be gone in a quick second. So, they definitely need to remain vigilant and monitor these systems and move whenever they are given warnings.”
Increasing rainfall is expected as a result of the system. Up to six inches of rainfall were recorded across the country and this is causing rivers to swell and to threaten some communities with flooding – particularly in the central and southern parts of the country. CEMO’s Kenton Parham says they are in a state of readiness for the possibility of flooding in Toledo.
On the Phone: Kenton Parham, Southern Regional Coordinator, NEMO
“We have contacted all our community leaders and the village emergency people in these communities and our river monitors are monitoring rivers in these areas and reporting to us as per normal. NEMO is on standby ready to respond to any flooding incident. We are prepared to open shelters if that need arises in these areas. We are just monitoring the system and the communities and the rivers and we are in a state of readiness for this one.”
In Belize City, the City Emergency Management Organization is closely monitoring the situation. They anticipate that low-lying areas across the city may be inundated with water and so they are stepping up activities to mitigate the impact of the flood on these communities.
Melony Dawson, Liaison Officer, CEMO
“We have areas such as the Gungulung area; crewman lagoon which the Collet area; Jane Usher and also Belama. Those areas are also the flood prone areas, so from the time Eta had passed, the City Council has been working day and night tirelessly throughout weeks since Eta had passed. So, the work that we are doing right now is to clear out all the drains; the backhoe has been out day and night and we have been clearing out garbage that have been clogging up these drains; clay and sand that people have on the side. So, the work is continuous.”
Northern Belize Could Experience Rising Waters!
Principal Hydrologist Tennielle Hendy says that they have received reports that water is already high in some areas. For now, the Iguana Creek Bridge in Spanish Lookout is closed – as well as the low-lying bridge in the twin towns of Santa Elena and San Ignacio. Hendy says that while the north wasn’t impacted in the most recent flood, they have received reports that water is rising in some northern communities.
On the Phone: Tennielle Williams-Hendy, Principal Hydrologist
“We have received reports so far, the Iguana Creek Bridge is under water due to the recent rains that we experienced because of Hurricane Iota. We also have in the north to the Rio Hondo, which has been increasing over the past couple of weeks but it wasn’t significant but now we are seeing a rise in the Rio Hondo at Blue Creek and so we have a flood watch in effect for them; Santa Cruz; San Roman; San Antonio; Douglas – our level is showing that the levels are above normal and they are increasing slowly as well as at Tower Hill and Caledonia. Couple weeks we haven’t been having any warnings for the north of the country but we are seeing that the north is also being affected by flood conditions. On the Belize River, we are seeing again flood levels are rising and it is all the way from Iguana Creek Bridge and all the way down to Burrell Boom. We have had reports now that the water is encroaching on the actual road network and so we are seeing that all those flood levels are coming downstream and we are still receiving additional rainfall and so it means that it can further exacerbate the flooding conditions that we are seeing. In the south of the country, we are also seeing that the flood levels are increasing yet again and in accordance with our flood warning, we expect these streams to rise but they rise very quickly and fall very quickly.”
Will Monkey River Flood?
And on the topic of rising waters – residents in the community of Monkey River are reporting that they are experiencing an elevation in the water levels. Today, we asked Hendy about the situation in that southern coastal village. Here’s what she had to say.
On the Phone: Tennielle Williams-Hendy, Principal Hydrologist
“We have locations around Monkey River; we have on the Swasey and Bladen branches which they both join like the situation with the Belize River – they both join to form Monkey River which are seeing increasing water levels in both systems. So, it is expected that Monkey River will be increasing and our data shows that it is above normal and increasing.”
Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture Visit Flood-Affected Villages
On Thursday, November 19th, 2020, the Prime Minister Hon. John Briceno, and Hon. Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise, visited Maypen Village in the Belize District to get a firsthand look at the situation involving cattle rescue due to flooding.
Maypen is a settlement that lies off the Philip Goldson Highway, approximately 27 miles outside Belize City. Residents of the area are involved in cattle ranching which has been impacted by the recent rains and the rising Belize River. Cattle in the area have become stranded and are in danger of drowning.
Minister Mai was apprised of the situation at a meeting during his familiarization tour. Quick action on the Minister’s part led to collaboration with the Belize Livestock Producers Association (BLPA), Banana Bank Lodge, Caribbean Tires and Mennonite ranchers from the villages of Blue Creek and Shipyard, who provided boats and trailers to help rescue the stranded animals. Of the approximately 300 heads of stranded cattle, 60 have already been rescued.
The Prime Minister and Minister Mai visited the area where they spoke with ranchers and got a first-hand look at the rescue efforts. Prime Minister Briceño and Hon. Mai praised the efforts of all involved, especially the BLPA and ranchers from Blue Creek and Shipyard, who came from afar to support the rescue efforts.
Accompanied by area representative for Belize Rural North, Hon. Marconi Leal, the Prime Minister and Minister Mai also visited Crooked Tree to get a look at the flooding and spoke to affected residents. The causeway is under water and several families in the village have been evacuated to shelters.
Floods in Central Belize force Cattle Through Floodwaters
With the green light given to farmers to continue selling their cattle through the informal route, a burden should have been lifted off their shoulders. But from plight to peril as now the recent floods in the Central Belize district have severely affected their livestock - forcing farmers to find inventive ways to get them to higher ground.
Prime Minister John Briceno took it as a priority and spent his November 19 holiday witnessing cattle rescue in Maypen Village, which has been severely affected by flooding. The Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise, Jose Mai, along with the BLPA, Banana Bank Lodge, Caribbean Tires and Mennonite Ranchers from Blue Creek and Shipyard provided boats and trailers to rescue the animals, as many were stranded and in danger of drowning.
Eyebrow raising videos of cattle practically swimming through the floodwaters reached our newsroom and we spoke to a rancher in the area by phone to find out what they have to endure to ensure they get their their livestock high and dry.
Voice of: Eustace Shaw, Rancher "Most people especially in the Maypen area had to move their cattle and as we speak the Mennonite community of Blue Creek and Shipyard has gone to Maypen. They have gone with full force taking trailers, tractors, boats, men to assist the farmers that side for moving about 400 heads of cattle and at this point the rain is relentless, the rising has slow down, but still the pastures are overfill with water, so at this time a lot of people are finding it hard to find places for the cattle to sleep. Everybody have started moving their animals. We thought when the first hurricane passed that it would be okay, but after the second one came then it got excessive. You have in Grace Bank and Maypen, you can only access those areas by boat or dorey at this point. So we find it hard that you have to be moving animals by boat. Its costly, it's dangerous and its tiresome. The impact will still remain of the flooding, because even after the water have receded the grass will be sour and the cattle don't want to eat it, over the pastures will be muddy, so even after the flood is gone a lot of pastures would have to be redone."
According to Shaw, if the cattle don't have dry ground to sleep on, they may cramp up and eventually die.
Flooding in Orange Walk; Family of Seven Seeks Shelter
Torrential rains over the last few days have water levels along rivers, streams and ponds way above normal and floodwaters are gushing into yards and in some cases, seeping into homes. News Five has received reports of flooding in the cayes, once again in the west at Roaring Creek Village and across urban and rural Belize District. But today, a News Five team headed north to Orange Walk where several villages have been drenched and water levels are up; the Emergency Operation Centre is up and running and shelters are open for those who may want to seek refuge from the deluge. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
Incessant rains over the past few days have impacted the entire country and there are reports of flooding from a number of communities, including the cayes. Today, we travelled north to Orange Walk where we found the Flores family staying at the Trial Farm Government School, a designated shelter. Ana Flores says that, along with her mother and five children, they voluntarily evacuated their house in the village as water levels rose quickly inside their yard and within hours, into her house and then her mothers.
Ana Flores, Resident, Trial Farm Village
“In the house where we are staying it get flood so that’s why we needed to come out.”
“How many of you guys are here?”
“Five of us; it is my mother with three kids and I with two kids.”
Unlike others, Flores says that she made the decision sooner rather than later and without shame. While taking into consideration the COVID-19 reality, she is equally concerned about her family’s health.
“We decided to come because my mom has a little child where he has down syndrome and so he always get sick on her. And the same case with my little baby. So whenever the weather is like this, he get sick and I don’t want him to get more sick ina di water and the cold and the mud over there at home.”
“COVID-19; yo noh fraid fi that too?
“Yes I do, but I have to have my kids safety too that’s why I barely come out for my kids to be safe.”
“So how long you guys will be here?”
“I don’t know. I am not so sure yet.”
Further north, in the twin villages of San Jose and San Pablo, on Thursday a portion of the Philip Goldson Highway was impassable by smaller vehicles; in fact, the gushing water pushed a vehicle off the pavement and into a ditch.
While the water level has receded somewhat, a number of properties remain inundated. What we saw today was the water already inside some homes while in other cases, just a few inches from entering the doors.
Edilberta Rodriguez, Chairlady, San Jose Village
“We had serious problems. We have some areas that are very low and we have some houses that were drastically floeded. We saw concerns of the people; some of the water was coming in and we got to speak to some of the villagers and they were concerned. So we had very high waters in our area. We had like about four of them that were concerned about getting water in their houses and practically, we were waiting calls for them. They wanted like late for us to go and rescue them, but we didn’t have the need to go, but we were conscious about what was happening to them. So people sometime will wait last minute, but we were ready for them.”
The Emergency Operation Centre in Orange Walk was activated earlier this week as rising water levels are being monitored. Backhoes are in operation in several areas – today in Trial Farm Village – where clogged drains are being cleared of debris to allow for the water to flow off.
Juan Leiva, NEMO District Coordinator, Orange Walk
“I got a call from the chairlady from Trial Farm that an area in the Black Water Creek was flooding so we took action; we went to see the area to do an assessment and we realised that we might have to open shelters. So I spoke to the chairlady, Miss Patty Witzil and we did open the shelter. The shelter is open presently as we speak. Two families are in there that needed to be evacuated. The problem there is that the drains were clogged up, but the Ministry of Works along with the town council managed to get heavy equipment there and they open up the drains and that is what has caused the water to recede a lot.”
The forecast is for the rains to continue through to next week and so NEMO District Coordinator for Orange Walk, Juan Leiva says that they are working closely with the village leaders who are on the ground to monitor the situation.
“We are monitoring the San Jose area; the left hand side of San Jose going in because there is a creek there that normally gets flooded. Normally one or two families will get affected there and we ask them if they get affected, the chairlady will open the multipurpose complex at San Jose. The San Jose Government School is on standby as well if the rain continues—which we are expecting because of a cold front that is passing. We just came from Douglas [Village]. We are monitoring the river and we see that it is rising slowly, but it is of concern. [For] Douglas, we have the San Pablo Government School as well as San Jose School ready to open for shelter if we need that to be opened.”
And while pantry recipients wait patiently on the program to be brought back up to speed, the ranchers of Maypen have been moving at high speed to get their dying cattle to higher ground.
Their cattle are in danger of being lost., either to drowning or to exhaustion. Ranchers from other communities have come together to assist in rescuing the animals from certain death. The process is not an easy one, but their teamwork ensures that the villagers can keep their livelihoods. Courtney Menzies got a firsthand look at how they transport the cattle to dry land.
In Maypen, a small village in the Belize District of about ten families, the floodwater is over five feet deep in some areas. This poses a danger, not just to the residents, but to their livestock as well. Cattle that don't have dry land to rest will eventually cramp up and die.
Already, approximately ten cows have been lost, which represents thousands of dollars in losses to farmers.
Last week, the villagers teamed up with Mennonite ranchers from Blue Creek and Shipyard as well as ranchers from Banana Bank to transport the cattle to dry land. It is a grueling and lengthy process and one young Banana Bank rancher said that he has been at it since Thursday.
Reydi Cruz, Rancher "We've been here for about 3 days now with today. We came from Thursday from last week and we spent Thursday and Friday here then we went back to the ranch for catching up with work and stuff then we came back today and we've been pulling out cattle from two corrals at the back with rope and drag them on to the boat where they would tie them up and bring them down here and here they load them on to the trailer and take them out. But the first 2 days the trailer wouldn't come all the way here would be before the bridge. So now, it would be so much easier because we get more cattle out. The first day we only got about 40-45 heads of cattle out from the first corral, then on Friday we got a bit less because there were only 2 boats, but today we'll be a bit more busy since there are a lot more boats and horses."
The process was a lot longer in the previous days since there were limited skiffs, but the Mennonites provided a tractor-type vehicle high enough to pass through the deeper waters while pulling a trailer filled with cattle. Getting the cows onto the trailer is not so easy, since they are already tired. The ranchers have to pull them by ropes and horses to lead them into the cage, where all they can do is collapse from exhaustion.
Cruz said that the experience has been an emotional one for him because felt sympathy for the animals who were stranded in the floodwaters and in danger of drowning.
Reydi Cruz, Rancher "Cattle cant last two long in the water because they need to rest just like us and like my experience has been like in a way emotional, because you wouldn't expect to see animals suffering like that and the first two days we were going in we would see cattle in water they don't have anywhere to stand on to rest their feet and they catch cramps and eventually they would just lie down there and just die."
Another difficult part of the process was working alongside the villagers since at first there were disagreements between them and the ranchers.
Reydi Cruz, Rancher "There wasn't a mutual understanding between the villagers. So like from Banana Bank its 3 of us and we work better with the Mennonites, because they are more understanding and they use to working as a team and like we work as a team everyday, so we are use to that. But the guys down there they had a rough time, like learning to cooperate with us and stuff like that and their mentality about working with cattle was far different from our one. So in the beginning it was kinda hard, but now somebody else is in charge of assigning everybody to their places. SO everything is pulling much more easier now."
Up until this afternoon, there were somewhere almost 200 cows left to transport from out of the villagers. These cows would then be taken either to Shipyard, Central Farm, or Banana Bank. Most of them are tagged or branded so that the owners can differentiate them.
The rest of the cattle are expected to be transported within the next couple days. Later on, we'll show you how flooding is affecting the resigns of the Belize river Valley.
Flooding in Lord’s Bank Village; 50 Families Affected
Some fifty families in the village of Lord’s Bank off the Philip Goldson Highway have been affected by flooding. Since last week, the water level began rising in the village and today, we got a tour of the area by boat, thanks to a resident who assisted our team to access the area. The water is about five to six feet deep in some areas as streets are completely submerged and residents access their homes via canoes. Others are stranded inside their homes and are being assisted by NEMO. One resident is concerned about snakes and crocodiles known to be in the area. Today, while we were with Belize Rural NEMO Coordinator, Alpheus Gillett, he briefed us about the situation in Lord’s Bank.
Alpheus Gillett, Belize Rural Coordinator, NEMO
“Of course Lord’s Bank always gets the last of the water coming down because before it reaches the sea, it reaches Lord’s Bank. We have about fifty families more or less at this time affected by Lord’s Bank, but most of the people living in that part of Lord’s Bank live on stilt and are staying in their homes. What we have been doing, NEMO along with Relief and Supply, we have been assisting those people with food supplies and water. So we continue to do assessment, we continue to take food and water for those people in those areas.”
Access Roads and Bridges Impassable in Several Areas
There are several access roads and bridges that are impassable tonight as flood waters continue to flow down towards the sea. A NEMO Advisory states that in the Corozal District, Caledonia, Sarteneja, Copper Bank, and Progresso roads are impassable and the Consejo Road is inundated. In Cayo, the low-lying wooden bridge and the Iguana Creek Bridge are under water and in More Tomorrow Village; both roads are impassable at this time. In Stann Creek, the Coastal Road is trafficable from Hope Creek to Gales Point and motorists need to drive with extreme caution as culverts are being replaced due to ongoing construction of the highway. Numerous small wooden, concrete and hammock bridges are either destroyed or significantly damaged. In the Belize District, the Boom/Hattieville Road as well as Bomba causeway is impassable by small vehicles. The Crooked Tree causeway remains under water. While in Santa Martha and Flowers Bank, roads are only accessible to high vehicle.
Alpheus Gillett, Belize Rural Coordinator, NEMO
“Well we know the Crooked Tree causeway has been cut off from since the beginning of this bad situation. But now we have Bomba – the causeway is two feet under water and only big vehicles can access in and out from that community. We have now Flowers Bank. We have been assisted by the Belize Defense Force to transport people from Flowers Bank because the Flowers Bank road is almost a mile under water; at the deepest point, I would say, three feet under water. So in the morning, the B.D.F. high trucks are taking people who are working in Belize City and in the evening, they are assisting those villagers to get back within their community. In addition to that, we have the Boom Road that takes you to the Belize River Valley area; that is cut off. And then the Boom/Hattieville Road, I would say it is two feet plus under water so small vehicles cannot pass in that area.”
Belama under Water, Apollo Street is Now Apollo River
Here in the City, the picture is much the same, there is water everywhere in most parts of low-lying areas in Belama phases three to five. Some residents have left their homes, seeking refuge elsewhere, while others will have to traverse through the water if they have to leave their homes.
Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano with a report.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Residents of Belama, phases three and four, are severely inconvenienced getting into and out of their homes, as well as traversing nearby streets. There is floodwater everywhere. From the look of it, the deluge that has overwhelmed Apollo Street since the beginning of the month will not be receding anytime soon. Until then, small cars won’t be able to access this thoroughfare and foot traffic is miserable.
Ernesto Herrera, Resident, Belama Phase 4
“This is the first time I’ve seen this place like this, right, under water. So well, to me so, I say they should [keep] an eye on this place ya soh and try lift it up higher. That’s it, lift it up higher, because, you know, it looks very bad. So ih must got wahn way to fix, right. All weh dehn need fu do da lift it up higher.”
Raising the street, however, would create another problem. The displaced water would find its way into other low-lying areas, including the homes of families that are already inundated. Flooding is a perennial issue in this community and despite the development that has taken place here, that issue has never been addressed.
Denar Westby, Resident, Belama Phase 4
“My house is flooded with water and almost wet my stuff in there and lotta mess in the house [because of] the water.”
Like many other properties in this neighborhood, Denar Westby’s home is waterlogged. Along with a significant rise in water level has come unwanted guests, forcing Westby and his wife to evacuate and seek refuge elsewhere. Crocodiles are showing up in all sizes.
“You’re packing up what you have here to go to the north, at least for a couple days until the water goes down?”
“Yes sir, I am going outside of my house until the water slows down and that’s all.”
“How long have you been living in this area?”
“Seven years. Seven years.”
“Is this the worst that it has gotten?”
“No, about three years ago, we mi have wahn next flooding similar like this, more higher. A little bit higher, but we are still living the same thing because dehn noh clean the culverts and that need fu clean, mek di water flow pan di side fu mek dis thing stop di happen.”
With additional rainfall expected later this week, the existing situation will only become exacerbated. An appeal is being made to Area Representative Francis Fonseca to see what can be done to assist residents who have found themselves desolate.
“The people weh live here they have a hard time to come out, you know. The only thing is that the city bus pass over yeah too. So the only way to come from this place, right. Because walking, I noh think you can make it walking.”
“Would there be any appeal from you to anybody in authority who could help to resolve this situation going forward?”
“Well the only way to help the situation is the manager, the one in charge of this place. That’s the only person that could take the interest of fixing this place here. That’s the only thing that I can say.”
Iguana Creek Bridge Remains under Water
In the West, the Iguana Creek Bridge remains underwater. The Belize River is slowly receding since the second flood but the bridge remains impassable for vehicles. The bridge links communities such as Buena Vista and Spanish Lookout to the George Price Highway. Residents of the communities are now using the Farmers Express Road build and maintained by the Spanish Lookout community. Cattle Traders like Joseph Friessen say that the flooding has affected their business.
Joseph Friessen Jr., Cattle Trader, Spanish Lookout
“The river is flooding right here if you can see and it is blocking the bridge for now almost a week and the vehicles have to go around to the farms express road to go in and road from Spanish Lookout and also we can go and take another road, the Bullet Tree Road which has been very bad condition in the rains and so thank god we have this road that is giving up access to Spanish Lookout, the Farms Express Road which is built by the Spanish Lookout Community and that the access we have to Spanish Lookout right now.”
“Is this the worst you have seen the river flood?”
Joseph Friessen Jr.
“Well this is not the worst flood. The worst was two weeks ago. That was the highest flood that we have seen in my lifetime here. It was thirty five feet above the bridge and the bridge was close for about ten days for the traffic to cross. At the moment it is almost about one week almost that it has been closed now since the second flood and this time around the flood only came up fifteen feet above the bridge.”
“It is going down slowly.”
Joseph Friessen Jr.
“It is going down very slowly. It is still going down very slowly.”
“So talk to us about the cattle and getting the cattle out of Spanish Lookout. You use the back road. Is it more expensive for you?”
Joseph Friessen Jr.
“Well it is definitely more mileage and a lot more rougher road to travel so it takes a lot more time and more wear and tear for your vehicle because of the rough road that we have to ravel, definitely more expense.”
For the past few newscasts, we've shown you the distress that the countrywide floods from Hurricane Iota have been causing Belizeans after the days-long torrential rain finally eased up on Monday.
All that water must find its way from the inland areas of the country to the coast, via the rivers and other major waterways. One concerned citizen living near the Hattieville-Boom road is reporting tonight that the entire community of the Ridge Lagoon Estate, which is made up of approximately 16 families, is being inconvenienced by one family which lives across the road from them. He says that this family is attempting to solve their flood issues by pumping that water out of their property across the road. All that water is spilling into the Ridge Lagoon Community and worsening their flooding.
This evening, this concerned citizen granted us a telephone interview to explain what exactly is happening:
Voice of: Ian Jones, Concerned Citizen "The area around here called Ridge Lagoon Estate" - the last time we had seen flooding like this was in 2007 or 2008 when the entire country was flooded, so when we saw that flood in Cayo we expected it to reach here eventually. It was raising gradually like an half inch and hour over the past 2-3 days and we were preparing ourselves for it and then this morning I realize that across the street where there is a building establishment I realize they brought in an excavator and they dammed off a culvert which runs under the street which connects their property to a pond that's in Ridge Lagoon. That pond then connects to a canal which runs to the river. Over the past two weeks with all the rains that were coming down, their side was flooded and so what I notice this morning they took an excavator and they blocked off the culvert so that the water from this side would not go over there and then they connected a industrial water pump and started to pump out the water from that side of the road onto our side and the water started to raise like an inch to two inches an hour. Right now we are probably have about almost a foot or over a foot of water over the entire neighborhood. The flood is affecting everybody."
According to this concerned resident, who asked not to be named, the community raised their complaint with the offending family, and that late this evening, they discontinued their pumping operations. He is concerned that this family may restart their flood pumping if there is no regulatory action taken to stop them.
Flooding Intensifies the Most Miserable and Humiliating Circumstances
Tonight we head to the south side of Belize City where far too many families have been living in abject poverty. The COVID pandemic has worsened their lives and now flooding has made a bad situation grimmer. Sixty-two year old Marlene King is a resident of Jones Street, she hardly knows where her next meal is coming from on a normal day. It is anything but normal these days, the heavy rains has caused flooding inside her small house. King has grown desperate and is crying out for help. Here is Isani Cayetano with a report.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Living in the worst conditions imaginable, for one Belize City family, has only been exacerbated by the torrential downpour these past few days. Already faced with the hardship of finding food to eat, clean water to drink and a warm, dry place to sleep, stepping out, for sixty-two-year-old Marlene King, means negotiating the murky water that constantly threatens to enter her house. Along with her ailing husband, daughter and granddaughter, she has been living in abject poverty. The heavy rains only serve to make life all the more miserable.
Marlene King, Resident, Jones Street
“Every time when ih rain I flood out and I haffu di put up my things dehn wet up [and I haffu] throw weh wahn few ah dehn eena di dirt drum. My mattress wet up weh my lee gial di sleep pan di floor. All under my bed full up with water and my room full up with water [and] we haffu di pack up everything eena one corner and when time ih rain I lone cry because I noh like di situation ah how I deh.”
It is a deplorable state of affairs. Since losing two sons to gun violence a few years ago and her husband taking ill with cancer, King has become the sole provider and joblessness at her age has backed her into a corner.
“My common-law, Mr. Michael Augustine, he cyan sih, he cyan do nothing fi ihself and everything, me da di man and di woman eena my house because he cyan help me do nothing more again because ih noh di sih, ih blind.”
“Tell me how difficult it is for you to try to make ends meet, fi try get stuff fi eat, fi try get stuff fi keep di house going.”
“Well me, Marlene King, I go to my friend dehn and dehn assist me, only dehn I could get wahn little help from. My friend dehn help me lot. Dehn come to my house, bring grocery fu mi and bring wahn little money fi mi mek I could buy few things weh I need.”
…but that kind of assistance is far and few. What King needs is a new home in order to improve her living conditions. This morning, she was visited by several persons from the Pickstock Constituency Office. She lives in Lake Independence but has sought the assistance of Minister of Tourism Anthony Mahler.
Carlos Galvez, Pickstock Constituency Office
“It aches my heart to come across people living in these deplorable conditions. You know, it’s very sad. This is unbelievable and unacceptable. We shouldn’t have people living in these conditions. Here you have somebody living in such a state, a condition [that’s] so horrible, you know, water, flooding. This whole house needs to be renovated. This is not livable and certainly since she reached out to Mr. Mahler, we came, we make sure that we drop off some food items, a food basket and definitely, today we are going to come back and we are going to do as much as we can to help Ms. Marlene King.”
“You have to walk through mud and water to get inside of your house which is also under water. How do you feel as a mother, as a parent, as someone who has to face this situation every day?”
“Mr. Isani, I feel bad and I cry every time because I noh believe seh I mih wahn di live eena dis kinda situation ya. Even when ih rain, I sihdown and I cry, I seh God help me mek things work out good fi me because I noh like how I deh and like how my old man sick and he cyan help ihself, everything da me one. Everything da me one for ahn.”
“What do you need the most right now?”
“I just need food and help mek ah could get wahn house and mek I could get some food and mek I could happy, so I could get wahn nice place fi rest my head when ih rain.”
Over 150 Families Affected by Flooding in Corozal District
The waters are beginning to recede up north, but residents are bracing for another round of flooding later this week. Today, across the district, assessments are taking place of the damages caused by the severe weather conditions. NEMO is asking persons in low-lying areas to relocate to weather the next few days of flooding. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
Today, we headed north to Corozal District where water levels have been receding in several villages and along low-lying areas in the town. Some two days ago, water levels had reached high into yards and in some cases up to two feet inside homes. There are still some access roads to villages that are impassable and the District NEMO Office continues to work along with several ministries and the town council to mitigate the situation.
Ronnie Hernandez, Corozal District Coordinator, NEMO
“We had the areas of Libertad; we had the areas of Chula Vista, Sarteneja, San Andres and some parts of the Corozal Town that had yard flooding and we went on the ground to see the different flooding [reports] we had received. Up to today, water is receding. We have Ministry of Works on the ground. I just came back from Consejo. We had a view of it of water receding from the different yards. But what we notice is that we have some roads that are impassable. We have currently the Sarteneja, the Chunox Road where [the Ministry of] Works is doing their assessment right now and they are on the ground. Also the Caledonia Road.”
The NEMO in that northernmost district was in full action last Thursday and up to Monday, over a hundred and fifty families were affected when water inundated their yards and they were subsequently displaced. They opted to stay with relatives and friends due to the COVID-19 situation so there are no shelterees, even though at least one facility has been opened for access.
“We were getting from the district emergency committee chat group a lot of inundation, yard flooding. Also the district emergency committee semi-activated in the Corozal NEMO office and we were receiving and we standby from the shelter management committee; we decided to have the keys on standby. The Guadalupe RC School was open and mitigation and access and work went to the areas of Chula Vista and different areas of Corozal Town. And works have been put out from Corozal Town Council, Ministry of Works and we have our chairpersons also on the ground that went all around Corozal Town. The assistance from the relief and supplies management committee has already been sent to the Fireburn Community. We have the Caledonia; we have the San Andres and some in Chula Vista.”
Now it is forecasted that a tropical wave that will be passing over the country on Wednesday is expected to dump more water and with the Rio Hondo River at capacity, it is anticipated that water levels will rise once again. Acting Northern Regional NEMO Coordinator, Ronnie Hernandez advises residents to evacuate early if they live in flood prone areas.
“My advice is that if you know that you are in low-lying areas; try to take the precautions of moving out to a family member. We have experienced that; some of our villages have seen the importance of moving out – not during the time of the rain or the flooding. And I believe that we have one of our most enemies out there which is the COVID-19.”
What’s Happening Near Boom Road?
An unusual operation is taking place along the Burrell Boom Road where a massive amount of floodwater is being pumped from one property and funneled through a nearby culvert which empties into Ridge Lagoon Estates. Residents of that community were taken aback when they observed that Teichroeb and Sons Limited had built a retaining wall to stop the flow of water through the underground duct onto its property. What is all the more strange is that the water is being pumped back into the culvert where it washes out into the residential neighborhood. This evening, News Five spoke with Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer in the Ministry of Works, who told us that after reviewing the video that was sent to him earlier, the Public Roads Act was not being violated. While it is not within the ministry’s purview, we were not able to get a comment on the operation. From all appearances, nonetheless, it is tantamount to draining one’s excess water into a neighbor’s yard.
Flooded, Impassable Streets and Displaced Persons in Rural Belize District
Over sixty persons are in shelters in rural Belize District as several villages and homes remain under water. A number of access roads are also under several feet of water and impassable by smaller vehicles and in some cases boats have to be used to very persons to and from their homes. Today, News Five headed back to rural Belize District, including the Western Paradise Village where water levels are up to three feet in houses. Here’s reporter Duane Moody.
Duane Moody, Reporting
While there have been little to no rain for the past few days, there are a number of access roads across rural Belize District that remain under several feet of water and impassable to pedestrians and small vehicles. At some points in the Belize River Valley, including a portion of the Boom/Hattieville Road, the street is under roughly four feet of water.
Alpheus Gillett, Belize Rural Coordinator, NEMO
“Flood water is still up at this time. On the Burrell Boom/Hattieville Road, water is around I would say three to four feet of water on that road; the Belize River Valley Road, around Black Orchid area, still impassable. We have about four feet of water to the approach of Rancho Bridge, so it is impassable for small vehicles; the Crooked Tree causeway, still impassable; the road access to May Pen, still impassable. Bomba, the water is about one and a half foot on the road; much bigger vehicle can pass in that area.”
Many houses in villages such as Rancho Dolores and Lemonal remain under water, even as water is said to be receding slowly. As such, there are over sixty persons in shelters across rural Belize District.
“People are still displaced. At this point in time we have about sixty-seven persons still in shelter; mainly in the Burrell Boom area, Bermudian landing, Lemonal and Crooked Tree because some areas are still flooded, but the good news is that water is receding. What we are highly concentrating on is providing that immediate relief supplies for families who have been displaced or affected the most.”
There are sections of the George Price Highway that are under several inches of water. Mile twenty near the cut-off to Gracie Rock is submerged and between miles ten and eight in the Western Paradise Village, traffic is slowed down considerably as motorists make their way through the gushing waters. A number of fishers are diving in the flood zone for tilapia and on site, scrape and sell their catch.
The savannah in the area has been overflowing for some weeks now and it is a glimpse of the disaster residents are facing in the Western Pines and Sunset areas of the village.
Arlene Requeña, Chairlady, Western Paradise Village
“The part of the village that’s known as Westlake the water has been going down; it’s going slow. But Westlake is in a much better position right now than Sunset and Western Pines. The main entrance to Sunset is waist-deep for me, so there is only one entrance to Sunset and Western Pines if you stay on the highway. The new highway gives us another entrance into the back of Western Pines, but even Western Pines residents are seeing two to three feet of water in their yards. There are some houses that are a lot of bungalow houses up here, so some houses, their beds are wet. The water is totally inside the houses, there is a lot of loss and stuff like that. We’ve never seen this level of flooding in the village before.”
According to Western Paradise Chairlady, Arlene Requeña, due to fear of property crimes, residents have not evacuated their flooded homes and are instead weathering the storm.
“Most people are bearing it out. Don’t want to leave their houses, afraid of what might happen—of thieves and so forth. Most people are going through it. They would maybe go to a neighbour, go to a friend or some people go to the city and just come back in and check on their houses. But most people are in their houses with that water.”
Belize Rural NEMO Coordinator Alpheus Gillett says that it is expected that the water will continue to recede over the next few weeks.
“We’ll start to see the water receding and that’s taking place at this time. So I would say sometime later this week, we will see water recede to the extent where families can go back to their homes, with the exception of Crooked Tree and May Pen which will stay much longer under water.”
Councillor Vaughan lives in the Belama area and says that the council, as well as NEMO, has been in the area trying to assist the many residents who have been affected with food items and other basic needs. He says that the residents, for various reasons, have opted to stay inside their flooded homes and not seek shelter or refuge elsewhere.
Albert Vaughan, Councillor for Works, Belize City Council
“I have been living in Belama from 1991; I live there and this is the worst I’ve ever seen. What happened this time Duane, the flood didn’t restrict only to Belama phase three lower part, but the upper part and has extended now to Belama phase four. Thanks to the mayor and Honourable Francis Fonseca, the area rep, we managed to put some packages together to help with the relief; in particular this weekend gone by. So we got some food stuff; those who needed to go to dry place, we looked after that. So we went in there and we met with those people and talked to them; in fact, we are still helping them as a matter of fact today. There is a little that we can do beside that. One of the most daring thing is that people are refusing to leave their home and that may be because of security reason, that may be because of the COVID-19 reason. That is the last resort for them; they don’t want to leave because of those causes.”