The rains and the spillover of the dams – it is the perfect recipe for the floods out west and parts of the south. As we noted the flooding scenario began as early as six to seven o’clock this morning. It interrupted what everyone anticipated would be a hassle free commute. But – that was not the case especially as it relates to the area near Saint Matthew’s. Reporter Courtney Menzies takes us through that area and spoke with several engineers and officials while assessments were just being carried out.
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: If you are planning to travel to Cayo this weekend you’re fresh out of luck. I’m standing here at mile thirty eight and a half on the George Price Highway where the road behind me has completely been split in half, washed away by flooding caused by incessant rains that have been happening for the past two days. Various employees from the Ministry of Works were present at the scene including Chief Engineer Lennox Bradley and the Central Zone Engineer Irvin Thimbrel. They were able to assess the damage and explained what was being done to fix it.
Lennox Bradley, Chief Engineer, Ministry of Works: “The capacity of the existing culverts, the double five food culverts that we have there at mile thirty eight and a half couldn’t take the amount of water. We have granular material when I say granular material it’s material that does not have a lot of plasticity in it and so that is vulnerable with water passing through and once water gets inside that granular material you’ll have something that we call piping it will wash away that granular material and that is from our preliminary assessment that is what happened there.”
Irving Thimbriel, Central Zone Engineer, Ministry of Works: “We have several things on the table that we’re working on currently. We’re looking at setting up a bailey bridge we have some bailey bridges on the compound that’s one option, we’re looking at also putting some boulders to do a temporary crossing so we’re strategizing as the ministry to see what is the best option to be able to get the road back open as quickly as possible to allow for the free flow of traffic.”
The permanent solution is to increase the hydraulic area that we have there and that could be additional culverts or a small little bridge but that’s more medium term.”
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: “As with any incidence of major flooding the National Emergency Management Organization activated. In the area of St.Matthew’s Village where the road was damaged ten families had to be evacuated to shelters. They will be cared for by NEMO and will later be given cleaning supplies and other materials to sanitize their homes. NEMO Minister Edmond Castro was on the scene and stated that a long term solution will be needed to that this problem does not reoccur.”
Hon. Edmond Castro, Minister of Transport: “The water is receding, this will receive within another four hours or so. The Ministry will also be able to deal with the excavator to excavate the compromised portion of the highway and use the hard core or rocks to fill it in temporarily but what needs to be done is to use some six foot wide culverts on each side so that they adequately will be able to handle the volume of water coming down the creek. Similarly same thing needs to be done at the Kiki Witz area. If you notice the volume of the water is too heavy for the culvert that is there so thus it overflows the banks. We notice that we will continue to have this phenomenon because of climate change which is real and these culverts were adequate back thirty-forty years ago but not now so we have to build bridges and so on and road which is climate resilient which could adequately deal with the situation that now.”
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: The Belize Police Department also deployed their officers to maintain law and order. Senior Superintendent Lyndon Flowers explained the role they played in the situation.
Sr.Supt.Lyndon Flowers: “Our patrols were out here very early this morning after we experienced the night rains so Roaring Creek police responded as well we also had to get backup vehicles from the Mahogany Heights station. We had patrols in the Belmopan area in the J&W housing area site and were making sure that everyone was safe in there along with BEMO and other agencies that look after the safety.”
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: While the police tried to keep everyone safe one man risked it all when he decided to swim across the river. Richard Santiago told us that he took that chance so that he could be with his family.
Richard Santiago: “I have two kids I mean I have to reach home. I work at the Department of Transport and this morning we heard that no buses were able to cross from the St.Matthews side to go to Belize City and when I left the terminal we sent most of our buses back to the west where they come from so I decided that we had a busito that only drop us at mile thirty nine and from there we have to find our way across I know that the only way across is behind the minister’s farm and I know the farm so I just had to take a walk through the back and try to see how I can swim across to the next side the piece of land that was there. I met four males and one female trying to come across, the current is strong so if you didn’t grab on to most of the branches you would get carried away.”
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: “Another resident whose name coincidentally is Flood Smith stated that he saw the moment when the road cracked.
Flood Smith, Resident: “The road just lifted up, the pressure of the water it just started to raising and the road just started to lift a little while about after seven it just opened up. In a way it didn’t everyone bad and it did me bad because then the water came as expected nobody can’t go to work and we can’t cross the river. I have family across there I stay there most of the time, to make this happen everything shock. Nobody can’t work, nobody can’t move we just have to wait until everything just flows through and we’ll see what will happen.”
At three o’clock this evening the National Hydrology Service reported that improved weather conditions can be expected with a day. Until then rain is expected tonight in the south and in some coastal areas.