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Jun 2, 2020

CEMO’s Preparedness for the 2020 Hurricane Season

It is only day two of the hurricane season, but a tropical storm has formed in the Bay of Campeche, Mexico.  The storm began as a tropical depression bringing heavy rainfall and flooding over Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico.  The National Hydrological Service is asking citizens to keep away from flooded rivers and motorists to avoid crossing flooded bridges, roads, and highways. Since last night, the city has been experiencing flooding in some areas even as CEMO prepares for the hurricane season which this year has to factor social distancing in shelters.  Here is News Five’s Duane Moody with a report.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Overflowing drains and inundated streets across the Old Capital, the rainy weather over the past few days has caused flooding in many areas. While not near as extensive as in certain villages, water levels are up for several reasons.


Michael Noralez

Michael Noralez, Deputy Mayor, Belize City Council

“We had to cut down on staff and some people had to work by shift and so on, so most of the personnel who handled heavy machinery, we didn’t consider them essential.  When the deluge came down, we had certain areas like in the Coral Grove area, Sundial and Sunray Streets respectively that were flooded. Now when I drove out there yesterday and I saw the situation, my manager along with the manager for works and the city engineer had already done their survey. So we had to get a piece of heavy equipment to open the outlet for that area. We should have done it earlier like we did last year because last year when it rained there were not much flooding in the city.”


For the next two weeks, the council will deploy its heavy duty machinery to clear the drainage system to ensure that the water is runoffs and so minimize flooding across the city.


Michael Noralez

“We are dedicating the next two weeks to these outlets and drains. So we are asking people to have a little patience with us; we will be getting there. I get calls about this area and that area, but we will get there. Just give us a few more days and the flooding should be alleviated as much as possible.”


As part of its hurricane preparedness plan, the thirteen committees which form part of the City Emergency Management Organization have been in session to ensure that all personnel and the requisite systems are in place.


Michael Noralez

“Our plans have been in place ever since we took over. Of course, the plans have been in place ever since the establishment of CEMO in 2012. All we do is modify the plan as we go along. The thirteen committees are standing committees; each of them have an operation officer who is responsible to make sure that the number of personnel is in place, what needs to be done for that committee is updated.  When it comes to public education and warning, we have a committee for that; we have one for the relief and supplies management because when people go into these hurricane shelters you need to make sure that they have food and whatsoever it is.”


But with COVID-19 and the restrictions of social distancing in place, CEMO coordinator and deputy mayor, Michael Noralez says that they have expanded the reserve list of shelters and these structures have been approved.


Michael Noralez

“When the national COVID-19 committee mandated that we should only have ten persons in a gathering at any one time, well that’s what we were going to adhere to because in these shelters when people start coming in you have to make sure that social distancing is adhered to. So NEMO, CEMO, Red Cross and all the committees that came together decided that we would make sure that only ten persons would be in any one of the rooms for the shelter at any one time. And all the social distancing rules, all the sanitation rules and everything that the Ministry of Health has recommended would have been put in place. Since the slackening of some of the COVID-19 rules, we had agreed that we would up that to twenty-five once the space is available.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

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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