NEMO well prepared for Rina - Evacuation started on Tuesday morning Print E-mail
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Thursday, 27 October 2011 00:00

Evacuations off the islands were ended by 5 p.m. on Wednesday.Hurricane Rina which was forecasted to pass over the Yucatan Peninsula and Southern Mexico, sections of Belize City to the Northern tip of Corozal remains under a hurricane watch. On Tuesday, the storm had strengthened to a category 2 hurricane with upper wind speeds of 110 miles per hour.

As a result of this, the National Emergency Management Organization facilitated voluntary evacuation off the islands, particularly San Pedro and Caye Caulker. NEMO and the Government of Belize contracted the services of San Pedro Belize Express, and Caye Caulker Water Taxi to ferry occupants to Belize City.

These occupants who had come into Belize City were then able to take buses to Belmopan, where they could seek shelter at the University of Belize Gymnasium. All of this was free of charge to the people who wished to evacuate the islands.

The Guardian spoke with a few of the evacuees, the employees of the water taxi companies, and the bus owners and drivers. We were told that the evacuation was moving along, but at a very slow pace. The island residents preferred to lodge with friends and family in Belize City, Orange Walk, or in Corozal, rather than going to the shelter in Belmopan. This is an important point which NEMO has also taken note of.
On Wednesday, we went to Belmopan to observe the events as they unfolded with NEMO, and the shelter situation at the gymnasium.

When we visited the UB Gymnasium, we discovered that of the few hundred residents who evacuated the islands, only 15 people chose to actually spend Tuesday night at the shelter.

We also spoke with the NEMO Coordinator, Noreen Fairweather, on the response to national mobilization. She said that over the entire course of Tuesday and Wednesday, NEMO had evacuated approximately 1,900 people off the island. She said that people had been responding, but the level of response has not been what NEMO was hoping for, even though representatives had been strongly encouraging residents to move to the mainland.

Fairweather said that NEMO continues to work in conjunction with the Belize Coast Guard, who is responsible to make trips around and monitor the waters. It is with the regular advisory of the Coast Guard that boats continue to move over the waters, to ferry people to safety. Once the cut-off time has been designated for evacuations to stop, there will be no further evacuation attempts, because it will be determined by the safety of the waters.

She has also said that the Port of Belize has issued a statement that it will not allow any vessels to leave or enter until the all-clear is given.

We also spoke to Chief Meteorologist, Dennis Gonguez, who said that as of 12 p.m. on Wednesday, the advisory was such that Rina was now at latitude 18.1 north and longitude 85.8 west, or 140 miles east of San Pedro, moving at 5 miles per hour. He also said that the storm has now weakened to a category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mile per hour.

Gonguez also said that the storm has started to behave as was forecasted. It is taking a west north-westerly path, and as it interacts with the land masses of Southern Mexico, it is expected to weaken further.
He also outlined that our northern districts will be receiving some effects of the outer aspects of the storm. It is expected that Corozal and Orange Walk could receive winds and rain with tropical storm-like strength.