…while 3 flood-prone villages in Orange Walk under watch
The incessant rains also continue to fall over the north or the country, and the waters of the Rio Hondo are rising. In the municipalities that can be an inconvenience, but in rural communities it can spell disaster. Currently, authorities are closely monitoring the situation in three villages in the Orange Walk District which are prone to flooding – San Roman, San Antonio and Douglas. On Wednesday Mike Rudon travelled north to San Antonio where he met the expected flooding, but also village which has learnt how to deal with the problem. Here’s that’s story.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
On Wednesday, this is how the approach to the community of San Antonio looked – the road completely covered with water. It looked so deep that we hesitated to cross at first, until we were put to shame by this villager in a small car who threw caution to the winds.He made it, and so did we, though the water was more than two feet deep in certain spots. NEMO is already on alert, monitoring the rising water on this crucial artery between two villages and the highway.
Elodio Aragon, NEMO Coordinator, Northern Region
“San Antonio right now…we have two villages which use the bridge to connect to the town, Santa Cruz and San Antonio. Right now what has happened is that, the bridge is okay, it is above water, but there is a stretch of road about a quarter mile which is flooded, it is high, and only big vehicles can pass at this moment. The river continues to rise and we believe that if it continues to rise then by tomorrow – especially if we have a bit more rain – we won’t even have the big vehicles passing. So what we have done is we have gotten boats…we have two boats already on the river checking San Antonio, San Roman and Douglas…these boats are patrolling right now as I talk.”
The beautiful, serene community on the bank of the river seems undisturbed by the prospect of flooding. The Chairlady of the village gave birth to her son during the last big flood in the community. He turns five in a few days, and that’s the magic number for these villagers who say the next big one is due.
Isela Wade, Chairlady, San Antonio
“Last five years, we had the flood, a big flood, so we prognosticated that every five years we do have flood and this year it won’t change because the water is rising and it’s rising fast.”
“So do you expect it to get much worse than this?”
“Well we do because we have nearby villages…coming from Yo Creek, coming from our own village and then the water comes down from Blue Creek right down the Rio Hondo River and it rises.”
According to Wade, villagers are affected because there are many commuters who need to use the road, but for them it’s really no big deal.
“It’s a situation which parents look at their students – if they have students going to high school or primary school and we have workers going to Orange Walk or all the way to Belize City…and the daily commuters – we have villagers from Santa Cruz coming and passing through our village. So it’s something that I wouldn’t say is normal, but we know how to deal with it.”
“Our greatest concern has always been…we know that from experience…whenever the rivers rise there the villagers are cut off – they cannot come into town so we have to assist. So what we do is we get boats. We get boats to ferry them from one side of the bank to the other side of the bank. So we get them across, because we know there are workers who need to get to town or go to Belize City to work. There are students who go to high school and so we need to cross them. There are businesspeople who need to buy things in and out and so we know that the people need to connect to the town, it is important. Because we know that then we supply the boats. We supply boats and everything to ferry them across…that’s the assistance we give them. If there’s a need like they are cut off and even with the boats it’s a lot of trouble, then we are even prepared to take some food for them…that’s in the critical cases.”
While NEMO is prepared to assist however they can, the villagers say they can deal with the river rising and the impassable road. They are more concerned about flooding within the village, and are dealing with that issue.
“Heavy rains are falling…so we need to see that the streets and the drains are clean so that the village won’t stay in water. We know the river is rising and so we can deal with the river. But in the village then it’s something else that is really very important to our daily lives – going to school, going to the shop and the streets are muddy and stuff like that. That’s why right now we have the Ministry of Works and they’re helping us, putting some culverts in and it’s really helping us a lot.”
When we left San Antonio, villagers were hard at work cutting down the savannah on the river bank. That is the route which boats will use to access the community if the waters continue to rise. Mike Rudon for News Five.
That interview was done on Wednesday. Today when we contacted Chairlady Wade, she told us that the waters have risen to the point where buses have stopped travelling on the road. She says the villagers are now using a tractor to cross the submerged stretch. When that is no longer possible, NEMO’s boats will be put to full use.