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Jun 18, 2020

A Portion of the George Price Highway Caves Due to Pressure of Flood Water

Staggering rainfall that lasted for some twelve hours caused intense flooding overnight in the western and southern parts of the country.  By this morning, sections of the George Price Highway and the Hummingbird Highway were impassable as the water gushed across the thoroughfares, effectively disconnecting parts of the country and causing damage to the roads.  Commuters were stuck on either sides and could not reach their destination as the highways became impassable.  At news time, it is projected that in about an hour and a half, the George Price Highway near mile thirty-eight will be reopened to vehicular traffic.  We have complete coverage on today’s flooding and start with News Five’s Duane Moody who was in Saint Matthew’s Village when the road collapsed.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Due to heavy rains overnight and into this morning, water levels in rivers and creeks began rising in the Cayo District. The deluge is so severe that access to two sections of the George Price Highway and a section of the Hummingbird Highway was cut off.  From early as seven-thirty this morning, traffic came to a halt near mile thirty-eight on the George Price Highway where the thoroughfare began caving. Within hours, the entire surface material had been washed away, cutting off the west from Belize City and the northern districts.


Lennox Bradley

Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer, Ministry of Works

“Our road networks have been slightly affected in various areas where access has become a challenge, just temporarily in some cases. Here at mile thirty-eight, Saint Matthews, we do have a case where it appears that perhaps due to piping some of the surface material from the culverts has been washed and so you have a two foot subsidence.”


That was around nine a.m. today, and an hour later, it was completely impassable to traffic and pedestrians as the top surface material was washed away.  The force and strong current is captured as the flood water surges through the culvert. Chief Engineer Lennox Bradley of the Ministry of Works says that the surface material—which was recommended for the reconstruction of the highway several years ago—gave way as the flood waters seeped through.


Lennox Bradley

“The specifications for base course material and fill material specify the type of plasticity that the material supposed to have. For the top layers of a pavement, you don’t want the material to have plasticity so a granular material, crushed material that is non-plastic, is what we prefer and recommend. And that is what is here. But the drawback with it is that because it does not have the plastic material, it does not have that binder that keeps it together. And so if the water works its way into it, it is easier to wash away than a plastic material. It’s granular material and somehow the water has worked its way within that granular material and washed that material and that has caused the subsidence. We are hoping that the culverts have not been compromised. If the culverts have not been compromised, we will just dig out what we have here and backfill to allow access.”


But even as excavators were brought in to remove the surface material, the Ministry of Works team on the ground would later acknowledge that the culverts had in fact been compromised. That assessment, says Irvin Thimbrel, is not good and temporary remedial work would take six to seven hours before the flow of traffic would resume.


Irvin Thimbrel

Irvin Thimbrel, Senior Executive Engineer, Ministry of Works

“The culverts were compromised and we are very sure we have to remove them. So we are widening the channel to ensure that the water recedes faster. So once the water recedes, then we will be able to start the rebuilding efforts.”


Lennox Bradley

“The more permanent solution would be to increase the hydraulic area, but that is not the time now because of the volume of water that we have right now. We really have to wait until the water recedes and then we could do a proper assessment and then increase the hydraulic area, putting in more culverts.”


Commuters had a hard time getting to work; others were heading home. Prior to the surface material caving in completely, persons were allowed to cross in single file. When that was discontinued, a group of persons risked their lives trying to swim across the creek to get to their destinations.


Richard Santiago

Richard Santiago, Employee, Department of Transport

“This morning we heard that no buses were able to cross from the Saint Matthew’s side to go to Belize City. And when I left the terminal, we sent most of our buses back to the west where they come from. So I decided there is a busito that would drop us at mile thirty-nine and then from there we have to find our way across.  I just take a walk from through the back and try see how I can swim across to the next side of the piece of land that was there.”


Duane Moody

“A lot of persons are doing this?”


Richard Santiago

“I met four males and a female trying to come across the same way.”


Duane Moody

I understand that during the process you lost your bag.”


Richard Santiago

“Yes. I never really lost it. I just had to let it go because it soak up most of the water and I had a raincoat and my uniform shirt, so I had to just let it float. It never really cold, but the current mi strong so if yo neva grab on to most of the branches dehn yo will get back weh.”


Duane Moody

“So risking your life just to get across? Why?”


Richard Santiago

“Have to reach home. Have two kids; I have to reach home.”


Around midday, truckloads of boulders and other fill material were brought to the area as a temporary fix is being put in place.


Lennox Bradley

“We also have arrangements with truckers to bring in material, boulders and heavy material that we will use to backfill a certain area where the traffic will be able to pass until we can do something much better after this inclement weather has passed.”


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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