Devastating Wildfires in Toledo Affect Hundreds of Farmers Amid Ongoing Dry Spell

Devastating Wildfires in Toledo Affect Hundreds of Farmers Amid Ongoing Dry Spell

Come Thursday, most of the south will begin seeing some rains right through to the weekend.  It will definitely bring some relief to the drawn out dry weather, but for unfortunately for tonight, the devastation continues to mount in the Toledo District as the destructive wildfires have now affected 400 hundred farmers across 28 communities. Last month, a state of public emergency was declared in the district, and today to get a first-hand look at the damage, the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) convened a high-level meeting with five government CEOs and personnel from the military. The group visited a few rural communities that have been battling the flames over the past month.  The group did data collection and was able to devise a plan to tackle the aftermath. Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Disaster Risk Management, Kennedy Carrillo, spoke to our newsroom this evening about the multi-ministerial effort to assist the victims.

Kennedy Carrillo, CEO, Ministry of Disaster Risk Management: “We had the opportunity to get an update. The CEOs were able to learn what is the most updated information as it relates to the situation with the fires. We are fully conscious that on a daily basis we continue to see more fires flaring up in different parts of the Toledo district. As you know these are very remote villages and many of these require kind of expertise that we do not have as it relates to fighting forest fires but we’ve seen communities, we have seen NGOs, we have seen the Belize Defence Force, we have seen personnel from the Ministry of Infrastructure, Rural Development come together to really fight these fires, one of the I think the first experiences that we’ve ever had in this country with this kind of forest fires and so I can say that overall our visits to San Pedro Colombia, San Miguel, Silver Creek, Blue Creek, provided us with the opportunity to meet with the different chairpersons, Alcaldes, and other members of the community especially farmers who have been impacted. And we had the opportunity to listen to them first hand how they have tried to fight these fires and have really at some point had to just give in because it’s almost mission impossible sometimes in some instances. And so now our responsibility as Chief Executive Officers is to ensure that we return to our ministries and we are prepared to recommend the necessary financial support that is needed by these farmers in particular who obviously have lost crops, they’ve lost their food supply and so working with the other ministries that were not present.”

While an initial damage assessment estimates over three million dollars in damages, NEMO has yet to ascertain the total cost of the natural disaster as the fires continue to pop up. Carillo says the important thing is to support the farmers and rural citizens displaced and robbed of their livelihoods by the blazes.  

Kennedy Carrillo, CEO, Ministry of Disaster Risk Management: “We will then of course be having a better idea of what is the cost of this damage and loss to our country as it relates to the agriculture sector, as it relates to obviously our environment the cost of our forest reserves and looking at the impact on the long term on tourism and so forth. So definitely we know that NEMO has been fully activated as it relates to the response here in Toledo and in the Cayo district and we recognize that as we now see the opening of the hurricane season we have had the opportunity to respond to a great disaster even before we were even opening up the Hurricane season but an opportunity for us to learn, an opportunity for us organize as a government and with the communities and the NGOs and obviously lesson well learned.”

Reporter: Does the ministry believe that if rains don’t come soon that figure will continue to grow because like you said it seems that the dry conditions just keep fueling these fires.

Kennedy Carrillo, CEO, Ministry of Disaster Risk Management: “Well obviously we also are working very closely with the meteorological department and we have information that we are expecting some rains, we’re expecting some rains down south as early as the end of this week and so that is some good news and so we’re hoping that we will get these rains but that it will not be too much rain because we know that then that would bring us another situation that we need to deal with as it relates to the erosion and the contamination of rivers because of the debris from these fires.”

There was representation from the Ministries of National Security, Rural Transformation and Rural Development, Education, and Public Utilities.

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