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Jan 12, 2018

A Final Word on Tuesday’s Tsunami Threat

Phillip Willoughby

Under extremely short notice on Tuesday night, the City Emergency Management Organization, CEMO, opened shelters to residents looking to secure themselves and their families against the approaching tsunami threat.  This followed the seven point six magnitude earthquake off the Swan Islands of Honduras. While most shelters were taken from the standard hurricane list, the newly-built Belize City Center and Marion Jones Sporting Complex were also called into use. City Councilor Philip Willoughby detailed their usage, as well as other considerations for the developing disaster plan for earthquakes and related tsunamis.


Phillip Willoughby, CEMO Coordinator

“When I got in communication with, again, the national emergency coordinator, the instructions were specific: go into these communities and tell them they would need to evacuate and go to a shelter or seek higher ground. That was first and foremost; that order had to be executed, and that was done. In light of that, we saw a huge migration of persons from behind the Jane Usher Boulevard area and within the Caesar Ridge area, the Yabra area specifically. Thereafter, I came into the Majestic Alley area and there are a few alleys off the coast in front of Radisson there, to notify these people what was happening and that was done.  We know that an extensive PR operation needs to take place, like yesterday, in light of what happened. For sure I know that our PR manager, the NEMO PR people will need to come up with something ASAP, but after we have this discussion with the ministry and other stakeholders in terms of developing these protocols and then these protocols, again, would have to be disseminated via media, print; if we need to get this in sign [language] or braille or whatever to communicate across the landscape to everyone to get this information, and then that has to be done.  If there was an earthquake during daylight hours, and you had kids in school, and then they are with teachers, family, parents. I think there has to be a wide discussion, looking at all angles of possible outcomes in relation to earthquakes; the time they strike, and the time frame in which we have to execute what would then be deemed as the terms of reference or the SOP’s that would dictate the protocols, how we operate after an earthquake hits, and the trajectory path for any tsunami is Belize City proper; then we have to these protocols in place, and execute them.” 

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