Belize: Hurricane Eta - Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) DREF Operation n° MDRBZ006

Situation Report
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A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

On 4 November 2020, Hurricane Eta made landfall on Nicaragua’s shores as a Category 4 hurricane, causing destruction and excessive rain with windspeeds of 140 mph. Several Central American countries experienced the negative effects of Hurricane Eta, including Belize.

On 3 November, rain started in Belize increasing intensity by the 4 and 5 November. The impact on Belize was approximately twenty inches of rainfall which mostly affected the central and southern regions of the country. This caused severe flooding in the Western District of Cayo, Southern District of Stann Creek, and Belize District, including Belize City. On 3 November, collective centres were activated to shelter people living in swampy and low-lying areas.

On 8 November, the National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) issued its 10th Advisory1 reporting that Cayo and Beze were experiencing unprecedented flood conditions. The Macal and Mopan rivers in the Cayo District and the Sibun and Belize Rivers in the Belize District are still at major flood stages. Every village from Arenal to Roaring Creek have been affected. The most impacted communities with devasting damages include: Arenal, Benque, Paslow Falls, Calla Creek, Bullet Tree Falls, Santa Familia, Blackman Eddy, and other downstream villages, including Roaring Creek.

Floodwaters have cut off several communities, with Cayo, Stann Creek, and Belize districts being most affected. NEMO reports flooding that may have potentially affected about 50,000-60,000 people2. This represents approximately 15% of the total population. There have been no reports of loss of life, however, according to a damage assessment air reconnaissance (flyover) conducted by the National Damage Assessment Committee member for Agriculture, Works, Search and Rescue, Lands and NEMO, the road network has suffered significant damages, especially the George Price and Phillip Goldson Highways and to a lesser extent Hummingbird and Southern highways. While the greatest flooding was concentrated in the west, the entire country has been affected. NEMO reports roads that are flooded and or impassable are the Bullet Tree and Santa Familia roads, the Calla Creek road, Santa Rosa road to Calla Creek, More Tomorrow M&S road, Sittee River bypass to Hopkins, and the Coastal Road from Hope Creek to Gales Point junction.

The Macal and Mopan rivers in the Cayo District rose more than 8.8 meters flooding every village from Arenal to Roaring Creek. The hardest-hit communities are Arenal, Benque, Calla Creek, Bullet Tree Falls, Santa Familia, Blackman Eddy, and the downstream villages, including Roaring Creek. All crossings in the Cayo district are flooded or at risk of flooding except the main crossings, Hawkesworth and the Santa Elena bypass (new) bridge. Most low-lying villages in rural Belize are starting to experience severe flood conditions1.

In addition, there is an active system in the Caribbean Sea (Hurricane Iota) that is projected to impact Central America on 16 November. This would only exacerbate the suffering of those already impacted by Hurricane Eta and potentially increase the number of persons who require aid from the Belize Red Cross Society. Therefore, it is critical to reach and meet the needs to the people affected to recover from the impact of Eta while preparing for the potential of a second impact.