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Jan 27, 2006

Officials warn residents of floodwater health risks

Story PictureFor much of this week, News Five has shown you startling images of the Belize district flooded by heavy rains. Tonight, as periods of rain continue to turn much of the city into a swamp, we investigate the side effects that could pose long-term problems for waterlogged residents.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
It?s not certain just how many children were unable to attend school this week because of the wet conditions, but it was hard to miss the many boys and girls walking or playing in the flooded streets of their neighbourhoods.

Therese Neal, Resident, Jane Usher Boulevard
?Well the water di affect we a lot back yah, very lot. Cause then the pickney (children) them have to walk in there first thing dah morning and the last thing dah night, you know. Cause if you look around, the whole yard full ah water. One week my kids them noh gone dah school, due to this same water business right yah. The other day all of them mi sick. This one yah?well from one thing to the next … as one get better, the next one drop sick.?

Residents of Port Loyola say a nearby development project has clogged drains and the water has nowhere to go. This week the area was visited by a team from the Ministry of Health because there is the concern that the waters may have been contaminated, posing a serious health risk. Ministry of Health?s Senior Public Health Inspector for the Central Region, Mark Bernard, says the visit was prompted by a report stating that the sewer ponds were overflowing. Bernard says while they discovered that was not the case, checks strongly suggest what is actually contributing to the problem.

Mark Bernard, Sr. Public Health Inspector, Min. of Health
?Definitely, the water has to be considered contaminated. It?s floodwater and back there people have septic tanks and soakaways. The soakaway obviously will come up and intermix with the rain water. In addition to that, you have garbage not being properly disposed of; you have things leaching out of the garbage, contaminating the water. You have people without proper latrines there, and so you definitely have various organisms, be it bacteria, viruses and other stuff in the water. But in addition to that, in addition to the health thing, we also have to be concerned in terms of flooding; you have the risk of tetanus, people stepping on boards, getting nail punctures leading to tetanus. You also have the discomfort … imagine waking up out of your warm bed and stepping into two feet of water. So the discomfort and that can also contribute to respiratory infections, you have moulds that can grow in people?s homes, so it?s a situation back there.?

The residents say they will try their best to continue with their daily household chores, but admit it is definitely not easy.

Karina Castelain, Resident, Jane Usher Boulevard
?Well, yes, because I cannot hang like before. I used to put the basket with clothes there, and now I have to walk way there and bring a certain amount of clothes and then go back and bring more. It will take longer than before, and this will take a good while to dry because it doesn?t have any drainage for the water to go out.?

Mark Bernard
?Part of the problem it would appear to me?and I?m not an engineer?but it would seem that the natural course where water would run out into the sea has been blocked. That to me is part of the problem.?

?Part of the solution, I believe all the parties have to come together to discuss this issue and you need to put your money where your mouth is. It is not a problem that is just occurring, it has been occurring for years and definitely some attention needs to be given to the area.?

As for the residents, Bernard offered this advice.

Mark Bernard
?First of all, you need to try to avoid walking in floodwater or minimise your contact with the floodwater. As I said before, the water is definitely contaminated. What also adds to the fact is that people do not have potable water back there and so the sanitation aspect has to be considered. Of course, kids being kids will take it for fun, and yes, they enjoy themselves. In addition also though, you have things like snakes coming out looking for somewhere dry to go … you have crocodiles, you have rodents, rats and stuff like that. So it is a situation that needs some attention by the relevant authorities.?

It?s not only city residents who have been dealing with flooded yards and houses. In Ladyville, severe flooding is affecting those people living along Perez Road.

Dianne Bainton, Resident, Ladyville Village
?Well right now we done used to it, because dah from we small. Any time it rain, water stop in the yard and that dah it right deh. And now, I got kids and they grow up with it same way in the yard. Sometimes, water deh cross and cross fi we street due to the stoppage of the drains them. So that?s why sometimes I hardly send them to school, because they travel with asthma and some times, every time I have to take them to the docta. Right now one ah them di cough home right now, so I noh send she dah school for whole a this week.?

Tonight we understand that work is being done in Ladyville to clear the drains so that the water can flow freely.

Weather officials tell News Five tonight that showers are expected to continue on Saturday but general conditions will improve on Sunday, except in the southern part of the country.

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