NEMO press release No. 30, 4 Dec 2008

from Government of Belize
Published on 04 Dec 2008 View Original
The 2008 Hurricane Season officially closed on Sunday, 30 November 2008. Of the sixteen named tropical systems one impacted Belize directly; Topical Storm Arthur. This storm made its mark the day before the official start of the hurricane season. This system produced torrential rains across Belize for over three days, causing flooding over the Orange Walk and Corozal Districts initially and then life threatening floods along the North Stann Creek and Sittee Rivers. Unfortunately, five persons lost their lives in the Stann Creek Valley. In addition, the Kendall Bridge, on the Southern Highway, was also lost, cutting off one of our major transportation routes.

Eight system reached hurricane strength, with three, Gustav, Ike and Paloma reaching category four. All three storms significantly impacted the island of Cuba causing millions of dollars in damage.

What may for us be the most memorable is Tropical Depression No. 16, in essence a "nameless" system which created significant damage across three districts. It developed just of the coast of Nicaragua and became a "rain maker" for Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. Its life threatening floods caused four deaths and impacted 113 communities in Belize, isolating many villages with flooded waters for weeks; making access only by boat. Hundreds of people had to be in shelters as the flood waters moved through the Belize River Valley. There are still three families in shelter as their homes are not habitable. The entire village of Douglas had to be evacuated due to subsequent health risks. The village of Crooked Tree is still only accessible by very high vehicles. NEMO provided food for approximately 9,000 persons over three weeks, medical care to over 3,000 persons and relief supplies to approximately 16,500 people impacted by this system. More than 1,000 homes were inundated. Three were great losses to agriculture, in particular corn; road networks and hundreds of people lost household items. With the support of government these items have already been replaced in the Cayo and Belize Districts and by 15 December 2008 Orange Walk should be completed. Repairs to damaged homes are well underway.

Most notable in our experience this season is the resolve of the Belizean people. Their spirit was not deterred by the severity of their losses or their great inconvenience. On the contrary, they were encouraging and determined to recover.

The staff of NEMO did Yeoman's work, in the execution of their duties and they are to be commended. We thank the dozens of volunteers, who willing gave of their self and time. In particular, the Mennonite Communities of Springfield and Lower Barton Creek.

As we end of this season, making news records, with storms before the official opening of the season and strengths of storms; as a nation we were challenged but fortunate with the lost and cost of these systems compared to our neighbors in the region. We must and will move forward; improving our preparedness or plans and policies in support of ensuring resilience in our people and our communities and most important, we must thank God for his mercies.