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Jun 24, 2013

Finding NEMO: Jordan flood victims say response late

Tropical Depression Two and the rainfall left in its wake, has affected communities deep in the south. The small community of Jordan in the Toledo district was inundated with water when the Moho River, locally known as River Jordan, overflowed its banks after the heavy rains. The floodwaters started rising on Thursday and by Friday all eighty-five residents of Jordan had to be evacuated to a shelter in nearby Blue Creek. No lives were lost, but these humble people lost their crops and many of their domestic animals while all the possessions in their homes were damaged. The waters have now receded, but the tragedy has by no means passed as these villagers return to their homes. They claim that the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) has not given them enough help. Mike Rudon went to Jordan and files this report.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

The community of Jordan lies close to the Moho River, which they call the River Jordan. On Thursday, that river overflowed its banks and covered the houses and the access road with about seven feet of water. Hilda Bolon has lived in Jordan for seventeen years, and she told us they noticed the water rising early Thursday morning.


Hilda Bolon

Hilda Bolon, Jordan Resident

“Early Thursday morning, the river was already getting high. Around seven o’clock, me and my children was starting to pick up all the things that were in our house and especially our corn because the main source of how we find our money was with our corn. So we tried our best to pick up our corn from the ground because we don’t want it to get wet. During the time that we were picking up the corn, the river was already starting to get inside. So the chairman, he called NEMO that we needed help but NEMO didn’t answer…all they did was cut off their phones. That’s all they did.”


Later that day, four families whose houses were the first to be flooded were taken to the community flood shelter. Looking at that structure this morning, it was almost impossible to believe it is a shelter which is designed to protect the residents of the community, all eighty-five of them, in the event of a flood. The roof was a sieve, the stove doesn’t work and this is what is supposed to pass for bathroom facilities in the event of a disaster. Antonina Choco’s family was one of those taken there.


Antonina Choco

Antonina Choco, Jordan Resident

“That shelter is small and it is leaking. So we are hungry there, we don’t have any food and they said that NEMO is coming and giving us food, but we didn’t receive any. So after that, we were there…the water is very high so we are just starving there. We tried to cook something in the little stove that they gave us there, but that stove zinc is leaking and the rain is heavy so it is splashing and we could hardly cook there.”


Mike Rudon

“So you all didn’t feel safe in that shelter?”


Antonina Choco

“No, no, no.”


Mariano Choc Jr.

Mariano Choc Jr., Deputy Chairman

“This shelter don’t help the people because this shelter too small mien. They have to understand…NEMO is saying this shelter safer for the people, but it is too small. Even if we bring all the people here, ih squeeze up and it noh right.”


Mike Rudon

“And besides that when it rains…”


Mariano Choc Jr.

“When it rain, the water get in there. And the breeze, you see the condition of the house and that roof was not good. So even if wah storm come or something come it wah could back away the house when we deh in yah because when Blue Creek flood, Santa Teresa flood, we in the middle of a river. So we just can’t move nowhere.”


With waters rising rapidly, Choc says they tried repeatedly to get in touch with NEMO but got no response, so they turned to Oscar Requena, and that led to all residents being evacuated to the Blue Creek shelter on Friday evening and late Friday night.


Antonina Choco

“The rain is very heavy so all of the people are shivering and trembling and the poor children some of them are crying too.”


Oscar Requena

Oscar Requena, Coordinated Evacuation

“When we came, we met the chairman and the vice chairman and some villagers from Jordan, we met them close to Blue Creek…they were all wet and going out. They said Mister Requena we are in distress right now, the water is rising and the weather bureau is forecasting more rain. The people want to come out, we have been trying to call NEMO, they have not responded to us; we need your help. That is what they said to us. So what did we do? We tried to call NEMO Toledo [and] we could not get to them; we couldn’t get to anybody Friday evening. So we decided to team up—well we were with Honorable Mike—we went to get a skiff…and I want to make this absolutely clear, we were not endangering anybody’s life in a small boat. We went to get a skiff with a sixty engine horsepower from Punta Gorda. We brought it in, we launched it near Blue Creek because I guess you have seen wild traveling here…the water was covering approximately about two and a half  to three miles of water was covering the road. With the support of villagers from Blue Creek and Jordan, we were able to get the boat here where the people were waiting. There were ladies with babies man; they were all waiting…they were waiting over there. The rain was pouring…it was pouring and we managed to get the first set of people across and we continued that until about eleven o’clock—to be exact, at about eleven o-five when we completed evacuating people.”


This road we drove in on today was the evacuation route on Friday – only then, as you can see from the marks on the lamp-posts, it was covered by about seven feet of water. Still, Requena and Mike Espat, who worked together on the evacuation, have been openly criticized by National Emergency Coordinator Noreen Fairweather, who says the residents were safe and secure in the shelter and didn’t have to be moved.


Oscar Requena

“I want to invite Miss Noreen Fairweather to come to Jordan, to come and see the building that she is talking about to be adequate to house people. You have seen it gentlemen…this building can probably only accommodate about fifteen or twenty people. You had eighty-two people who were evacuated. How in the world could eighty-two people fit here when there were children already with fever, some of them were sick, it was raining? I mean water would leak right through the roof. I mean come on, these people are very insensitive. I don’t like saying this, but I want to invite them to come on the ground and see the reality because it is easy to sit in an office and fro someone to give you a report and of course you are not seeing the reality.”


And that reality, even in the Blue Creek shelter where residents of Jordan found sanctuary, was far from ideal, as they had no food. They say NEMO didn’t help, and when it did, the response was far from adequate. And now they need help, urgently.


Hilda Bolon

“Yesterday they came and dropped those little bundles. It is a shame for NEMO…it seems like they don’t have a heart for us because all they bring for us was four bundles of clothes and two pieces of chewing gum. I don’t want chewing gum…that chewing gum will do me nothing. And even the food that they bring, was just a one meal for me. And some family has big family…some people about fifteen children they have. That won’t supply them for one meal.”


Santiago Teul

Santiago Teul, Village Chairman

“NEMO is not working for me and it is not helping my village. I tried in the beginning to ask for assistance with him, but he told me that he is not going to assist my village because he mentioned to me that he could help me until Monday, but just come and assist my village with no food, no clothing…just come and check. But I didn’t want that. I wanted food for my people to benefit because this time, if only five pounds of rice and two chicle…that makes no sense. So I want that he help like two to three months for my people because everything damaged.”


When we left Jordan this afternoon residents were still at the Blue Creek shelter getting ready to move home. Mike Rudon 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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4 Responses for “Finding NEMO: Jordan flood victims say response late”

  1. Maria Marshall says:

    Politicians are elected to to help their country people but very sadly the hurricane season is upon us and yet there is very inadequate shelters everywhere.

    Out on Caye Caulker there is NONE. No hurricane shelter for those whose houses are low lying or otherwise. No shelter for the elderly and infirm.
    How they expect them to run for boat from San Pedro that is already full up with people from San Pedro.
    I have seen some people like myself run for boat then when it stops at Caye Caulker the boat done full up and the poor people have to make their way back to their house fighting their way through rain and strong breeze.
    So please mr. prime minister and deputy prime minister and all those in authority plus of course NEMO, please please do your jobs by preparing proper hurricane shelters for the people, because they depend on you, please don’t let us down this year.

  2. Ray Cal says:

    It is very clear that NEMO Toledo neglected their duty. (I do not want to say this but – Is it discrimination against my poor Maya people??? NEMO leader has failed this test miserably. She must be replaced with a more responsible person. Even her surname does not take this challenge… She should be fired her for her incompetency…

  3. D says:

    Its ashame for nemo to be acting like they bought those stuff that they have in their stores. They have lots of items that are sent for the poor and those in disasters but it seems that they only want to keep for themselves. I was at the shelter on Saturday evening there was a small community called CRIQUE JUTE VILLAGE that reach to assist with their own vehicle. They brought cooked food and uncooked. I believe this small village did far better than NEMO (PG). SHAME ON PG NEMO.

  4. SWEETPEA says:

    These kinds of things sucks. An emergency organization as mentioned is to assist our fellow blzn. Regardless of color, race, religion or where you come from, there should have been help for the Mayans. As I watch and notice ,the Mayan’s are always left behind. Why? I still can’t come up with an answer. look at it this way “Tourists” come to Belize for a purpose.To see the beautiful Mayan Temple “WHICH ATTRACT THEM THE MOST” and the Wonderful diverse people here in Belize and the exotic handmade Carft from the people AND OUR BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY. Man! there should BE NO ONE LEFT BEHIND because in God Eyes everyone ARE Equal: ONE LOVE. GOD WILL NOT SEPERATE THE WHITE FROM BLACK OR BROWN. WE ARE ALL ONE PEOPLE.

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