Benque Viejo Residents Battle Blazes: Fires Threaten Homes and Infrastructure

Benque Viejo Residents Battle Blazes: Fires Threaten Homes and Infrastructure

And while NEMO continues to work on the ground in Toledo, the residents of Benque Viejo del Carmen are hoping for a solution to the blazes near their community. Since last week, several fires have been sparked on the outskirts of the town casting a blanket of smoke over the border community. The town’s authorities believe that while some of the fires resulted from the dry and hot weather conditions, a few blazes were intentionally lit. The municipality’s firefighters and residents are now working to keep the flames from reaching structures and other key infrastructure. This evening, the town’s mayor, Jorge Rosalez, spoke to us about the situation on the ground out west.

Jorge Rodriguez, Mayor of Benque Viejo Town: “Really it looks like a desert. Like hills, peeled hills, like everything is brown and grey here right now and really it’s very devastating to see what is going on. People have been trying, volunteers have been trying, the council has been trying to help out but you help one side and a next side starts with fire and really there is a lot of smoke everywhere. We have sent messages to the PM, letters to see how they could help this area because the smoke is immense. I know that everywhere in the country of Belize there are fires but right now it has gotten to the extent that here in Benque the farmers are losing their crops, their fruit trees, pineapples, soursops, banana, plantain everything is burning out. Yesterday I went to my close farm that I have about two miles from Benque and the day before yesterday I went there was nothing, yesterday I went and everything was extinguished already by fire. It’s like all of a sudden one day go and the next it’s done. I went to my farm last week about 10pm in the night to cut like one acre of fire I had in my farm but I told my neighbor he has to be careful with his farm and all of a sudden I have been checking every day and today that I went maybe eight hours in between and all his farm is just right into ashes, everything is ashes right now. People are suffering because a lot of people depend on the crops and the fruit trees, pineapple and soursop mostly and all of these things are disappearing.”

While the extent of damage caused by the fire is yet to be ascertained, Rosalez says the situation is keeping the community up at night.

Jorge Rodriguez, Mayor of Benque Viejo Town: “The only solution that I am praying to God right now is that we are waiting for this rain that is said to be coming on Friday. I hope this rain comes in and it calms down the smoke that is around. You cannot even sleep in the night. In the night like everything settles there is no breeze and the smoke stays around and your eyes are really red and your nose is hurting and your throat and all the clothes inside the houses and at my house you go and smell your clothes and it smells like smoke like you have been around the barbecue pit. And everybody smells like barbecue right now in Benque it’s’ really very hot and everywhere you go around it’s white, it’s just smoke everywhere. The fires about twelve o’clock the free zone area caught on fire and it looks like very big fires. It’s right on the border to the immigration on the border right there everything caught fire.”

Rosalez added that the situation highlights the growing threat of climate change.

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