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Oct 19, 2015

Heavy Rains Affect Residents in the Old Capital

Four areas in the City were the hardest hit by the weekend’s rains: Collet, Port Loyola, Lake Independence and Freetown Divisions. The water poured into houses damaging the little residents had; others simply could not leave their homes and had to be evacuated by the Belize Coastguard. The streets turned into rivers as many residents paddled through and vehicles stalled in the rising waters.  But Duane Moody made it into the affected neighborhoods on Sunday and has the following report.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“What has happened, what is happening is a disaster, is a crisis has precipitated an emergency, small E.”

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Mass flooding in Belize….It was no joke overnight on Saturday when torrential rains inundated Belize City. Across the Old Capital, the flooding, for most residents, has never been seen before, as the water level came creeping up like a thief in the night.

 

Alma Arnold

Alma Arnold, Resident, Freetown

“Water wet me so my mattress noh good because ih mi done old and with the water, ih worse. I noh know weh fi do; I feel so bad. Everything fi me…mi furniture, everything under water. I noh know weh fi do. I old; I can’t do nothing.”

 

Lavern Olivera, Resident, Freetown

“Coming on to morning, my ma hail me and say Lavern, my bed wet. Ih say everything. So we had to get up, get up the deep freeze, get up the refridge because we never got water like this before.”

 

Jane Stevens

Jane Stevens, Resident, Jane Usher Boulevard Area

“I open my door and she make I see how far the water deh. When I peep out the water about to come ina my house, which nin ih come in…two rooms, I have to sweep the water out. Me and my sister start to lift the things and put them high on table and chairs and so. And that’s what we tried to do, put them on the bed and all.”

 

The incessant rains began as early as Friday night, continued for almost two days and would not let up until just before one on Sunday. According to Chief Meteorologist Dennis Gonguez, approximately ten inches of rain have fallen on the city within the last thirty-six hours and estimates are that to every inch of rainfall, there is about four times the amount in runoff and flood waters. Gonguez says the low-pressure system, which is now in the Bay of Campeche, will cause another two days of downpour.

 

Dennis Gonguez

Dennis Gonguez, Chief Meteorologist

“We had a slow moving area of low pressure that currently sits in the Bay of Campeche and it had dumped significant amounts of rainfall around the country. However, the bulk of this rainfall affected the central and northern parts of this country with Belize City receiving about ten inches of rainfall during the past thirty-six hours. For the next thirty-six hours, the forecast indicates that about six to eight inches can still occur; the bulk of this is expected tonight and early in the morning. As we go into Tuesday and Wednesday, conditions improve somewhat on Tuesday with even better conditions on Wednesday.”

 

But while the forecast is that there will be better conditions by Wednesday, it is little or no consolation for residents of Freetown, Lake Independence, Collet and Port Loyola. These areas have been adversely affected by almost four feet of water. Meanwhile, the two main highways and entrances to the city were completely submerged; it was impassable for some vehicles trying to make way through the water.

 

As we traversed the city, children and entire families waded through the waters—some trying to get to higher grounds and shelters, while others were simply swimming in the murky waters. In Collet and Port Loyola, up to thirty families were evacuated with the assistance of the Coastguard, the City Emergency Management Organization (CEMO) and other residents, who left the comfort of their homes to assist.

 

Phillip Willoughby

Phillip Willoughby, CEMO

“This has been a whirlwind of efforts with all hands on deck. As you can see, we as a people have to be united in times as these, all instances aside. The community along with our personnel and the coastguard has been on the ground since early this morning. We had one small issue that we had to run through a protocol to cut off the electricity because as you can see what the situation is. Since we got the go ahead from the chairman of the Public Utilities and Access Committee, Doctor Collin Young, we went in and we have extracted residents in large numbers from behind here. It is so large that we lose count. This small craft goes up to just about where the refridge is and the second one goes to the back and then the people came out around the corner in the bigger boat.”

 

A Flood Mitigation Infrastructure Project that was rolled out in 2014 across the city was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Government of Belize. But the current disaster brings to light many flaws within the system and for those affected, it is believed that the unusual flooding is due to improper drainage.

 

Lavern Olivera

Lavern Olivera

“I noh know. I feel like the problem is the drain cause we noh hve no draining.”

 

Jane Stevens

“I experience it like this, but never way to the doorstep like that. Something is wrong.”

 

Duane Moody

“What do you think could have caused this?”

 

Jane Stevens

“I think all the drainage and thing just clogged about around here.”

 

Francis Fonseca, Area Rep., Freetown

“The streets, people appreciate the streets, but it is clear that we need proper drainage, proper drainage. The streets have effectively become swimming pools and of course the water is flowing into residents’ homes, low-lying homes so it is a major, major problem.”

 

Patrick Faber

In the case of the area encompassing Antelope Street and Fabers Road Extensions, which is in the heart of the Collet division, Area Rep. Patrick Faber says that the Krooman Lagoon catchment is the reason why those areas are worst. Approximately eighty-five percent of the constituency is under water.

 

Patrick Faber, Area Rep, Collet

“The people who are in that London Bridge area, which I remind people, is over the Krooman Lagoon; it is an impossibility to fill and that is a catchment area. That is why all that water is flooded in that area and as a result, a lot of the people living in that London Bridge experienced that kind of flooding. On the other side of Krooman Lagoon is where Madam Liz is and this morning very early, I was out there last night too, but this morning it was completely flooded because of that lagoon.”

 

Dean Barrow

The inclement weather also created unfortunate circumstances where several houses across the city collapsed, most of them with families still inside. According to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, residents that have been affected by the natural phenomenon can be assured that not a single need will remain unmet by the government.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“While we can’t control the weather, while we can’t control what has happened, we certainly can control our response to the disaster and basically my primary duty this afternoon and my principal message is to assure the nation that we will do everything that is required to put things back in a state of proper repair, to assist those that have been affected with whatever the needs are.”

 

P.U.P. Leader Francis Fonseca is also the area representative for the Freetown Division which is under water. He demands and will see that all citizens affected get the necessary assistance.

 

Francis Fonseca

Francis Fonseca

“We’ve seen in some cases roofs have collapsed, people’s floorings have caved in and in many cases, household goods and items have been destroyed; refrigerators, stoves, sofas, TVs…so it is big; it’s a huge problem. We are certainly glad that NEMO has been activated and we certainly expect and demand on behalf of the residents of Freetown, equitable, fair treatment. We are glad that the government has said that they will commit all the resources necessary in ensuring that everyone that has been affected by this disaster, there is a positive and quick response. We will make sure that that happens certainly for the people of Freetown, but as the leader of the party for all of our citizens in the country who have been affected.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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