First Tropical Storms from Pacific and Atlantic
Cause Worst Flooding in Years
9 June 2008
The first named storms for the 2008 hurricane season hit Belize simultaneously and extensively impacted the coastal and southern areas of the country with severe flash floods. Tropical Storm Alma developed on the Eastern Pacific on 27 May and Tropical Storm Arthur, the first named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, hit Belize on 31 May.
The confluence of the storms resulted in a heavy downpour which produced up to 11.4 (28.96 cm) inches of rain in the northern region, 10.2 inches (25.91 cm) in the western (Mountain Pine Ridge) region and 5.0 inches (12.07 cm) in the southern region. This deluge over a 36-hour period resulted in major floods in low-lying areas in the north, west, and southern districts, especially coastal areas.
As a result, villages in the northern and central areas of the country and Belize City, the commercial center, also experienced significant rainfall and flooding. It is estimated that the total value of the damage will exceed US$30 million of which economic losses to the agricultural sector are estimated at over US$13 million.
Five deaths have been confirmed and there are 3 persons missing. The floods directly affected 5,324 persons, 1,431 women, 1,444 men, and 249 children. Most of the hundreds of people who evacuated to public shelters have now left them.
River levels on the Rio Hondo remain in flood stage and are receding slowly near Blue Creek and Douglas villages. This recession is expected to above normal levels is to continue through Wednesday. The New River at Tower Hill and Caledonia remains at flood stage. River levels at Tower Hill are falling slowly and are expected to continue to fall to normal levels through Wednesday; the river level at Caledonia is also receding and is expected to continue to do so throughout Wednesday.
There has been damage to some health facilities in the southern region and some are still not yet accessible. A major road link to the South of the country has been interrupted with the destruction of the Kendall Bridge. At the height of the flooding, residents describe the water reaching the bridge, some 15 feet above normal levels. The loss of this bridge is hampering the delivery of essential food supplies and access to medical care.
The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) is conducting relief efforts. Belize Red Cross is also providing immediate relief supplies including water purification tablets, food, tarps and blankets, and is preparing an international appeal for additional aid.
Local and deployed PAHO/WHO staff joined interdisciplinary teams to conduct aerial and rapid health assessments, and is working with the Ministry of Health to make health education messages regarding safe water and sanitation. The PAHO/WHO team joined local authorities in evaluating water supply systems and making recommendations for health and disinfection strategies and personal hygiene practices in the Hope Creek and Sarawee areas. No outbreaks or significant health events have been reported, to date.
Current health needs include: communicable disease surveillance, implementation of vector control including ULV spraying, ensuring a safe water supply, and ensuring that supplies reach isolated communities in the south. Emergency medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and basic supplies are also needed.
Pictures from the Emergency
Torrential rains enveloped the seaside village of Hopkins in southern Belize.
Gales Point Community submerged by floods.
Destruction of Kendall Bridge.
Flooding of community and orange orchards in Sittee River Village.