By Alexis R. Milan, Staff Reporter
Prime Minister Dean Barrow held an emergency press conference on Sunday afternoon to update on the National Emergency Management Organization’s (NEMO) operations and to caution Belizeans to remain vigilant as flood conditions are expected to continue.
Chief Meteorologist Dennis Gonguez informed the public that Belize City, which has been the most impacted area, will see another six to eight inches of rain between Sunday night and Monday morning. For context, Belize has experienced about 10 inches of rain over the last 36 hours and has caused floods up to two-and-a-half-feet in some areas.
Schools at all levels have been canceled in Belize City and Barrow has encouraged all business people to stay updated with weather conditions and to communicate with employees accordingly but to make reasonable decisions. Several shelters have been opened in the City and more will be opened on a basis of necessity, NEMO Minister Godwin Hulse explained.
Maud Williams high-school has been activated as a shelter and so has Gwen Lizarraga, however, Gwen Liz will be closed because Belize Electricity Limited (BEL) had to cut electricity in that area due to safety hazards. Coast Guard personnel has also been having problems accessing the area.
Hulse also indicated that NEMO is facilitating the movement of people from the south to the north of the City. Eastern Division South Commander, Senior Superintendent Chester Williams and Eastern Division North Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police Desiree Phillips have been coordinating, moving people from shelter to shelter.
While Belize City has suffered the brunt of the flooding, NEMO continues to monitor Orange Walk, Corozal, Stann Creek and Toledo for possible floods and is prepared in the event similar situations develop in those areas.
NEMO has also activated it warehouses in Belmopan and Ladyville to ensure that food supplies are transported to all opened shelters in the City.
Hulse has also called on businesses to not increase prices during this time and reminded that ‘price-gouging’ is illegal. He said that in areas likely to have power issues, generators have already been activated in nearby shelters. He also urged people in shelters to behave appropriately and follow the rule of law. He reminded, also, that the Ministry of Health has advised that no one should be playing in the water as it could cause health issues.
Over 100 people have been placed in shelters, as of the last headcount, Councilor Phillip Willoughby said. He added that some people have left, but CEMO is encouraging people to remain at the shelters until the all clear is given.
Barrow assured that a state of emergency has not yet been called and that the government would be doing everything in its power to assist the people most in need.