PM Says Flood Is Historic - 11/10/20 11:27 AM
And while the Coast Guard and other government agencies are working to deliver disaster aid to the flood victims, we turn now the countrywide overview.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Dean Barrow called a virtual press conference - his last in office - to outline the emergency response plan for the 30 thousand-plus Belizeans impacted by the Eta weather system.
Here's what he and representatives from the utility companies, had to say about the damage to infrastructure and property that resulted from the floods:
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Outgoing Prime Minister
"We have been lashed over the past several days by monsoon-like rains to an extent not experienced in many years. In fact, I looked at the report that the NEMO coordinator has prepared for me, and he says to an extent not experienced in our lifetime. As a result, rising waters, rivers bursting their banks, submerged homes, yards, fields, pastures - even transmission lines and pumping stations - [are] utterly flooded."
John Mencias - CEO, BEL
"There were 3 main issues that we have experienced, and we continue to deal with. 1 is a major transmission line failure, the other, flooding in the service areas, of San Ignacio and Belmopan in particular, which have caused a safety risk, due to the rising water levels. And of course, also, we have been affected by the floods, our trucks and personnel have not been able to reach areas as quickly and as efficiently as during normal times. What happened - and unprecedented - is that our transmission lines run over the Iguana Creek, and there's about a 900-foot span of transmission line that runs over the Iguana Creek. And, there's about a 25 to 30-foot clearance between the top of the creek and our lines. And that was breached. The water rose up to the level of the lines and got in contact with the lines. We have never seen that before. These lines have been in place since 1995, which is 25 years. And obviously, that caused a major fault in the system. And so, we had to isolate out that portion of the transmission line."
Alvan Haynes - CEO, BWS
"We're pleased that generally, the service has not been interrupted in most areas, but the severe flooding, in the west, in particular, has caused some issues. And I'll start from the furthest west. There is a spring across the river in Benque, which in 2008, there was a line that crosses the river on a suspension arrangement, was washed away in 2008. We rebuilt it 10 feet higher than that flood-level - as far as we could tell - and these floods basically came, and rose above that height, and washed that structure and the line away. The estimated cost to replace is about $400,000 roughly."
Erro Gentle - CEO, Ministry of Works
"The major flooding has resulted in damages to the majority of our roads. In the Cayo District, Belize District, Stann Creek District, Toledo, and Orange Walk District. this time around, we were surprised because areas that have not been flooded have now come under floodwater. We have certain areas that are hotspots that we are monitoring. At the moment, we have the entrance to Benque, which is still impassable. The Calla Creek Village is underwater. The bridge there, what we call the hammock bridge, is underwater. It's impassable. We have the low-lying bridge in San Ignacio, fully submerged. San Ignacio Town, in the area of the Welcome Center, underwater. We have the Baking Pot Ferry that is not being used because of the flood conditions. The Iguana Creek bridge is also impassable. On the Bullet Tree Road, the Bullet Tree Bridge is underwater, and also, the Valley of Peace Bridge, which makes the Spanish Lookout area completely cut off."
PM Says 10 Million In Funds Will Be Rolled Out
The Prime Minister also made it clear that even though the government is cash-strapped, and that he is only going to be in office for a few more days, he has identified 10 million dollars which will fund the disaster relief to those 30,000 flood victims.
Here's how he addressed the potential protests that may come from his successor, after Wednesday's general election:
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow - Outgoing Prime Minister
"Money is no object. In terms of what has to be done, it will be done. I guarantee you that the funds are available from the Ministry of Finance. And less the leader of the UDP or the leader of the PUP get a heart attack, just remember that there's only so much we can spend between now and Wednesday. That's you're guardrail, but whatever needs to be spent between now and Wednesday will be spent. We have it in hand, and we are not going to stop to count the cost."
"Has there been a figure that you have your eyes on, in terms of the amount that will be disbursed?"
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow
"Well, I can tell you that we have immediately in hand certainly 10 million dollars. I don't know that we can spend 10 million dollars between Monday and Wednesday, but is [inaudible] to the extent that perhaps, we might have to make some commitments, knowing that the new administration will have to follow through, I at least assure the Honorable Patrick Faber, assure the Honorable John Briceno that there is that minimum amount that's going be available for dealing with this crisis."
Judith Alpuche - CEO, Ministry of Human Development
"The Ministry of Human Development is the humanitarian arm of NEMO. So, right now, we are working as a part - we're activated as the relief and supplies management committee of NEMO, and working hand in hand with the entire system. So, wherever there are shelters that are opened, and people who are in there, we're responsible to make sure that people are fed, that we have all the supplies in the shelters, etc. All the reports the Minister of National Security talked about in terms of people being moved, the coast guard, police, etc., going into the various communities, RSMC is right there with them. So, we're going into Bullet Tree this morning - or this afternoon, because there's a bit of delay. We have been working in the Calla Creek area with families that have been moved."
According to the PM, a series of reimbursements from the international financial institutions, as well as a sort of "rainy-day" savings which are closely watched by the Financial Secretary, will allow the Government to have the money to bring disaster relief.