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Oct 11, 2000

P.M tours flooded north

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It’s a part of Belize that seldom makes its way into the headlines, but the people who live along the New River and Rio Hondo in the Orange Walk District are the ones whose hard work is responsible for much of Belize’s growth and progress. Today Prime Minister Said Musa, accompanied by the district’s legislative representatives, made a tour of the flooded areas. News Five’s Jose Sanchez joined the group, and with the help of the Government Press Office camera crew, has just returned with the following report.

Johnny Briceno, Area Rep. Orange Walk Central

“So far in the Louisiana area we have moved over 300 persons living in this area, where the river has overflowed into the town. We have areas like Douglas; we have moved everybody out of that village. San Roman, Santa Cruz and San Antonio, are completely cut off from the rest of the districts, we have to move there by boats. The last figure that we have, over 2,000 have been affected, that we either had to move, or are flooded out.

Victor Mendez, Chairman, San Antonio Village Council

“We are seeing that the river is still rising. It went to 20 inches high.”

Jose Sanchez

“How soon do you see your village recovering from this loss?”

Victor Mendez

“Well the flood will take a lot of time, about a month and a half to lower. To recover, we need a lot of help. It will take a lot of time, for planting the cane and making over the crop that we were having, will take about a year and a half.”

Prime Minister Said Musa

“Well clearly we’ve taken a very serious lost here. In fact, we are looking at a total damage in excess of 500 million dollars. Clearly what we’ll have to do is a special disaster relief reconstruction loan programme. We are hoping that the international agencies such as the IDB and the World Bank will be responsive to us and recognize that what we need are soft loans for many, many years, like 15, 20-year loans. But we can’t look at it bleakly, we have to say that well, reconstruction must go on and we have to borrow the money. Clearly the grants that are coming in, the donations, will be relatively small amounts, so there is no other way to do it but to go through a lending agency.”

Jose Sanchez

“What credit facilities will be made available to those who lost homes, farmers, or people in the tourism industry in general?”

Prime Minister Said Musa

“We’ll be opening a special window for credit to be available to our small farmers. All the people here in the Orange Walk District for instance, who have lost all their crops, the livestock people, there will be a special window through the Development Finance Corporation. We are also opening a special window for loans to be made to the fishermen because they took a terrible loss as well with their traps as well as their boats and all that, and also for tourism, loans will be available to them. We hope to put that in place very shortly, within a matter of weeks because we recognize particularly in agriculture and tourism that we need to move very quickly so that people can begin the work of restoring their livelihood. Of course, in the case of the Orange Walk District and part of the Belize District, it will take a little longer because we have to wait for the waters to recede.”

Servulo Baeza, Area Rep. Orange Walk North

“Most importantly will be livelihood of these people. A lot of these farmers out here are sugar cane farmers, but also subsistence farmers. That means that all of their livelihood is gone, they don’t have their milpas, their corn, their beans, everything is destroyed, is underwater. So we are looking in the long term to get these people back on their feet, it will be a lot of work. In terms of damages to their homes and so on, I think that…it’s more minimal; it’s more the economy of the villages is what is being affected. The people here in San Roman are locked out in terms of road because 3 miles of the road is under water. Some places it’s about, 10 feet on the road, so they’re just completely locked out.”

Prime Minister Said Musa

“What we have to deal here with now, is evacuating people from the flooded areas and several shelters have been open here in Orange Walk Town, in higher villages. We have to be relocating school children and relocating their school facilities as well, so that is what is undergoing right now. Clearly in the long term, we will have a big job ahead of us in repairing the roads, streets, drains, the whole infrastructure of the country will have to undergo massive reconstruction.”

On Thursday Prime Minister Musa will once again be on the move, this time to Punta Gorda, where he will sign an historic agreement with the Maya leaders of southern Belize.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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