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Flash floods affect families in western and southern Belize

By Marion Ali, Assistant Editor

Between four and six families in some villages in the Cayo district were faced with a last-minute evacuation emergency situation just before midnight on Wednesday when they woke up to sweeping, cold flood waters threatening their lives and properties.
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The families gathered as much as they could and headed to higher ground, while some just looked on as the flood waters, as high as four feet in some places, rushed past their homes and farmlands. A few of the bungalow homes were inundated with water, and a huge section of the George Price Highway near mile 60 was totally cut off via vehicular traffic. The Saint Vincent Pallotti RC primary school was also inaccessible, as were several dirt roads leading to other communities.

The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) started receiving the alert sometime after 11:00 on Wednesday night from motorists who could not navigate through the tide. Calls later came in from other areas, including the Nohoch Che’en Archaeological Reserve, that the rapidly rising floods had become perilous to human life. That tourist destination was closed on Thursday.
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NEMO Minister, Edmond Castro told the Reporter late Thursday evening that assessments were still being conducted to determine the level of damages the families had suffered and as soon as those assessments were completed, NEMO would render assistance to those families.

Castro said that for more than two hours in the wee hours of Thursday, personnel from the Ministry of Works, the Belize Police Department and NEMO were on the George Price Highway with flashlights and traffic markers to close the highway to vehicular traffic so as to prevent motorists from driving into life-threatening flood waters. He said that at 3:24 a.m., that road closure was lifted when the flood had receded.

As it pertains to the timing of the flash flood, Castro said it could not have happened at a better time, when traffic is not at its peak to create a serious bottleneck.

On Thursday, information also started to pour in from the Toledo district, that several villages were facing flood conditions. These included Aguacate, Conejo Creek, Midway, Sunday Wood and Corazon villages, which experienced varying degrees of flooding. While there was no report that any home had been affected, a bus transporting teachers to these villages on Thursday morning had to return to Punta Gorda because the access road had also been rendered impassable by the rapidly rising floods.

Al Westby, NEMO’s central regional coordinator relayed to the Reporter that the flooding in the west and south followed several hours if incessant rains that lasted for about six hours on Wednesday. He said that like the Crooked Tree area, the Barton Creek, Unitedville areas form a catchment due to the mountainous region and because the creek that runs in the area is small, it cannot hold the volume of water when the flood rushes through like it did on Wednesday night.

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