Rains associated with the passage of Tropical Depression 16 during the period October 15 -17, 2008 have resulted in widespread flooding across several districts in Belize. Flood waters have reportedly affected 97 villages and are expected to continuing rising in areas of the Belize, Cayo, Corozal and Orange Walk Districts well into the month of November.
The Cayo District has been significantly impacted and on October 22 was declared a Disaster Area by the Honorable Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize.
Tropical Depression No. 16 (TD 16), threatened Honduras, Guatemala and Belize and made landfall in northern Honduras on Thursday, 16 October 2008. The remnants of TD 16 caused widespread rainfall across Belize and life threatening floods along the Mopan and Macal Branches of the Belize River and along the entire Belize River Valley area affecting some 29 communities across the river valley. Communities along the Sibun River were also affected including Gracie Rock and Freetown Sibun.
This system also exacerbated the already flooded Rio Hondo River in the north, cutting off communities including San Antonio, San Roman, Douglas and Santa Cruz and impacting on 14 communities overall in the Orange Walk District. In the Corozal District, Caledonia has been the most severely impacted to date.
Declaration of Disaster Area
The Prime Minister, the Honorable Dean Barrow, declared the area of the Cayo District most impacted by the floods a disaster area on 22 October 2008. The disaster areas are as follows: Billy White, Branch Mouth, Bullett Tree, Calla Creek, Cristo Rey, Duck Run 1, Clarissa Falls, More Tomorrow, Paslow Falls, Plantain Sucker, Santa Familia and Spanish Lookout.
The status of the other parts of the country, that are currently experiencing floods, Orange Walk and Belize River Valley will be determined after the preliminary assessment of those areas.
The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) has reported that initial assessments have reported a total of 16,525 people living in the Belize, Cayo, Corozal and Orange Walk Districts have been affected and approximately 814 homes in 97 districts have been flooded. The number of homes flooded is expected to increase significantly, particularly in the Belize and Orange Walk Districts as waters continue to rise
Many of the displaced families are staying with families and those in shelters have been estimated at 311 as of October 27, 2008.
All persons in shelters are being given three meals a day. Relief Supply Teams were dispatched to the affected areas with food packages and water since October 19, 2008. As of 22 October relief supplies were issued for one week and two weeks supply of food is currently being distributed in the affected areas..
Several roads are closed primarily due to inaccessibility as a result of flood water or damaged culverts. On October 19, Ministry of Works (MOW) closed the Roaring Creek Bridge due to rising waters of some 22 inches. The entrance to Benque Viejo was closed temporarily on October 22, due to being under two feet of water. These sites were manned by the Police and Transport personnel to ensure safety.
There was no road access into the entire Calla Creek area and NEMO has been providing evacuation and safe crossings by boat. In San Ignacio the wooden bridge was under up to approximately 15 feet of water. Water levels rose into the market and football field areas. Water in that area has receded significantly.
The Iguana Creek Bridge to Spanish Lookout is still under water and will more than likely remain that way for the next week or two. Crossing at this location is being provided by private persons from the Mennonite Communities with police presence to ensure safety.
The MOW continues to monitor the roads and bridges status and advise on closure or otherwise.
The Agriculture Sector has reported significant damage to farmers who have suffered losses to crops particularly Corn, Beans, vegetables, root crops, papaya and rice.