Tropical Storm Arthur causes flooding in southern Belize
While the economic impact in agriculture has not been so severe, as much of the harvesting had already occurred, almost every family in the affected areas has suffered damages; they face considerable water and sanitation needs and potential disease outbreaks. They are also struggling with psycho-social trauma after the storm struck in the early hours of Monday morning, taking many by surprise and resulting in several clinging to life until rescue teams arrived hours later. There are five confirmed deaths (three of whom were children) and three people, including a small child, remain missing.
Tropical Storm Arthur - the first storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, formed on Saturday afternoon 31 May 2008 - immediately made landfall in Belize, dumping approximately 15 inches of rainfall over the country, and cutting off the southern districts of Stann Creek and Toledo completely. Toledo District remains inaccessible by road. Collectively Arthur and Tropical Storm Alma, which developed in the Eastern Pacific on 27 May, produced more than four days of rains. Three major bridges (Kendall, Mullins River & Soldier Creek) were completely destroyed on the Southern Highway. The Coastal Road and a number of culverts on the Hummingbird highway were washed away, resulting in significant gaps and eroded areas. Kendall Bridge on the Southern Highway - the only road that runs further south and connects the entire Toledo District to the rest of Belize - was completely washed away.
Significantly-affected villages are in southwest Belize: Gales Point Manatee and Stann Creek District (Mullins River, Hope Creek, Sarawee, Sittee River, Hopkins, and the Valley Communities). This area accounts for approximately 20 destroyed homes and 200-300 damaged homes, constituting a displaced population of 4,000 people. Shelter, household item, water and sanitation issues have led to health concerns as well as psychosocial attention, and are cited as the most urgent needs of the affected population. Long-term food needs will be determined by more in-depth assessments.
Villages affected in the north so far include Santa Clara and San Roman where flooding has receded. Rising river levels have resulted in evacuations of the communities of San Estevan and Douglas, and more flooding is expected in San Victor and Concepcion villages. Estimates indicate that approximately 8,000 persons countrywide will be directly affected as a result of destroyed, damaged or submerged homes.
The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) has conducted an initial Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis but the results are still pending. Expected areas of economic impact identified by NEMO are the agricultural industry (especially rice, citrus, aquaculture and bananas), the budding oil industry (due to the destruction of key bridges on the Southern Highway), and the fishing and tourism industries.
NEMO has provided relief supplies, particularly food to all the affected areas using maritime assets from the Belize Defence Force, the Belize Coast Guard and the British Forces Helicopter to access those communities that are difficult to reach by road. Mobile medical teams have been deployed to the affected areas in order to provide assistance to the victims and to give advice on health related issues. NEMO has identified the initial needs such as food and water (including baby food); medical supplies; and clothing, especially for children, with long-term needs including housing construction materials and household items.
The United Nations Crisis Coordination Centre (UNCCC) - with staff from PAHO, UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF - has been operating since 2 June, working closely with local authorities including to provide logistical and technical support in damage assessments. Discussions with PM Barrow are ongoing to identify specific areas for further UN humanitarian support. The UN is particularly concerned about the water and sanitation situation - contaminated water, and water- and vector-borne diseases.
UN Resident Coordinator (Belize/El Salvador)
Ms. Jessica Faieta
Cellular: +503 78861890
UNICEF Representative/UN Designated Official
Ms. Rana Flowers
Cellular: +501 610 2201
Dr. Beverly Barnett
Cellular: +501 610 0188