NEMO3With only 5 weeks away from the closing of the 2014 Hurricane Season, Belize has been mercifully spared from any major threats to the country. And while some flooding was recorded in the South for this season, over the years we have been fortunate to not experience a major catastrophe. Despite being spared, officials at the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) remain on high alert. When it comes to hurricane preparedness; from emergency plans, to evacuation routes to hurricane shelters, much was done to prepare in the event a storm would threaten the country. Yesterday when we met with Northern Regional Director for NEMO, Elodio Aragon Senior, we delved into one of the toughest questions; can our shelters withstand a major threat? Maria Novelo reports.


Maria Novelo – Reporting


Elodio Aragon Sr. – Northern Regional Director, NEMO


“I think we have been doing well and the committees have been set, they are ready and whenever they are called they will respond and the period of the hurricane season is about to be finish for this year and I think that the month and the few weeks left go without any real treat or hit by any hurricane or flooding.”


Although the number of tropical storms and hurricanes typically peaks during the months of August and September, Belize has been blessed to not experience any real threat, other than sporadic flooding in the South. And while we’re still not quite “out of the woods yet”, NEMO’s Northern Regional Director, Elodio Aragon Sr., says while not fully prepared, they have prepared for the worst.


Elodio Aragon Sr. – Northern Regional Director, NEMO


“I believe that we might be talking oh we are prepared for a hurricane, I am saying we are not, we are prepared to a certain limit probably a category one or two probably a third but beyond that, I am telling you we will have a lot of problems and I pray to god we would never have to experience such a thing and I hope Orange Walk is in a good position because it is not a coastal town it is away from the coast and therefor for the hurricane to hit us first it has to come through the coast coming from the east and if it comes from the west it has to come over a lot of land so a category five coming probably would not hit us be diminished probably to category four or by the time it reaches here down to category three so I am saying that fortunate enough but that doesn’t mean we can take it easy we have to prepare for the worst.”


Come as it may and in the event of a major storm, Aragon says that his only fear is the lack of training in these major catastrophes.


Elodio Aragon Sr. – Northern Regional Director, NEMO


“My only fears is that we have not been trained to that level I believe that we can handle a category five but we will do our best I can tell you, I never done this and have never experience it if it happens we will act and react with everything we have to do what we can but I still think that because we have never experience it we lack that part of that training.”

But what about the shelters, do they possess the structural integrity and design to withstand up to a category 4 hurricane?


Elodio Aragon Sr. – Northern Regional Director, NEMO


“We have 24 villages and in a few of the villages we have two shelters and in most of them it is only one shelter so I would say we have at least about 35 shelters in the whole country and how I would grade them as the most to a third category hurricane that would be able to withstand that beyond that I tell and most of the houses in Orange Walk and the most of Belize most of them would fall down, a category four or five hurricane is tremendously strong.”

 

Elodio Aragon Sr. – Northern Regional Director, NEMO


“At this point all I can say is we will do our best and we will pray to God that nothing much would happen but I tell you category four or five we are in serious trouble in Belize.”

Notwithstanding the unpredictability of the weather, we asked Aragon to weigh in on the forecast for the remainder of the season.


Elodio Aragon Sr. – Northern Regional Director, NEMO


“Hurricanes have hit us in October and they have seems to threaten Belize in October and we have it all over the Atlantic and they come close to Belize and so the threat is there and I am saying here that from my experience October is still kind a little bit threatening but ones you get over October and into November from my experience I can’t remember having to be worrying about hurricane in November like it is coming but by November we hear the hurricane season is nearly over and then we don’t hear about hurricanes.”


There are approximately 12 emergency committees and about 35 designated Hurricane shelters in the Northern region. The 2014 Hurricane season ends November 30th.

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