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Nov 30, 2016

Crooked Tree Gets Its Own Hurricane Shelter

On the day that marks the end of the Hurricane Season, Crooked Tree Village was gifted with a million dollar disaster shelter. It is a fittingly appropriate gift to the people of Crooked Tree – after all, their village is always affected by hurricanes and flooding when it passes over that part of the country. So, today it was a grand affair – with a full ceremony, music by the Connection Band and lots of food and drinks. But before all that there were the formalities. The U.S. Ambassador, Minister of NEMO, and over two hundred residents gathered for the handing over of the building. News Five’s Andrea Polanco attended today’s event and has this report.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

It’s a one point two million dollars facility and it is expected to provide shelter and security for people who are affected by natural disasters and other tragedies. And today, NEMO, the Crooked Tree Village Council and US representatives cut the ribbon to officially hand over the building.

 

Edmond Castro, Minister of NEMO

“If you look at this facility, I wish we could have a large others in large urban and rural areas where the population is great. We could have more facilities like that that can be disaster centers or hurricane shelters. This is not just for hurricane for example, in time past in 2008 and 2013, you will recall that we had to be removing people from low lying areas because of the flooding situation. So, this serves as a wonderful building not just for hurricanes but also all natural disasters in and around the area here in Crooked Tree.”

 

Because of where they are located and also having a huge lagoon in the front of the village, many residents in Crooked Tree have been affected by flooding, hurricanes and other related weather conditions. For many of them the choice of shelter would be the school or the village center- two buildings that are not necessarily properly equipped as a disaster shelter or in some instance not able to accommodate the numbers. So, this hurricane and disaster shelter is a dream come true for the leaders of the Village.

 

Salome Tillett

Salome Tillett, Deputy Chairperson

“It is a tremendous blessing for the people of Crooked Tree. As you know, our community is an island really, so it is prone to floods and hurricanes and natural disasters like other parts of Belize. And very often we have had prolonged floods where we have to move villagers who are in the low lying areas and then it becomes a problem where to shelter them and even for the vulnerable people during the storm. For example, during the last hurricane we had to be moving people in different places. Sometimes some of the venues don’t have indoor plumbing. Sometimes it is not the strongest building either, just better than where they were. So it is really a blessing to be able to say to our people there is a strong, safe place. There is convenience; bathroom, indoor plumbing, a kitchen; the facilities that will make them feel at least some sense of comfort in a difficult time.”

 

The concrete structure is fenced and comes fully equipped – the furniture and appliances will be installed in the coming weeks. It has running water, electricity and communal spaces – and also features ramps for easy access. While the shelter is in Crooked Tree, neighboring communities and others can also use it if there is a need.

 

Edmond Castro

Edmond Castro

“This has everything; a nice, big waiting area where people can shelter either from hurricane or flooding situation. It has a big kitchen area that you can serve food from. It will be equipped with stove, refrigerator and chairs. It has also a media room, so everything can happen from right here in the event that Crooked Tree get cut off again like in the past. So, you can have a complete operation here that would benefit everybody in this Crooked Tree area.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“It has bathrooms and running water, as well?”

 

Edmond Castro

“Restroom, running water, hot and cold. Everything. You name it and we have it here.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“This is based in Crooked Tree and we know primarily Crooked Tree residents will be using this it; but, say in the event that a community nearby like Biscayne gets affected by a flood, will they be able to use or to have access to this facility?”

 

Edmond Castro

“Yes. Definitely. This is not a – this building was accepted on behalf of the Government of Belize for the people of Belize. This is not just for people here in Crooked Tree and there is a disaster down the road and the people of Crooked Tree are not affected, then of course, this is a building for all Belizeans. We will bring in people from other areas to use this facility if and when that time comes.”

 

The gift is courtesy of the US Government through its US Southern Command programme. Ambassador Carlos Moreno says that this donation is a part of bigger program called the Humanitarian Assistance Programme (HAP) which helps with citizen security:

 

Carlos Moreno

Carlos Moreno, U.S. Ambassador to Belize

“One of our principal objectives here is to improve citizens security, and that doesn’t only entail protecting Belize’s borders like the cayes and western border, but also focusing on the citizen part of security. Because when times of disaster we recognize that the Belizean people need some kind of refuge, so this kind of project fits right in with our objective of helping to improve citizen’s security in the broadest sense. The nice thing about this facility is that it can also serve just as a community center. As you can see the large hall here really has multiple purposes that it can be used by the community, once the furniture comes in. There is a kitchen and we have agreed to provide a stove, refrigerator and some other appliances so that it can be a full service facility. Other centers, for example, have an operations component; that is for radios, computers, and NEMO staff to sleep so that in the event that the disaster becomes as it always is – a twenty-five hour event – they are able to fulfill those needs. The warehouse for this facility will be serviced out of Orange Walk.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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