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National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) says San Pedro, Caye Caulker residents will need to start evacuating ahead of T.S. Lisa; shelters may open later today

Posted: Monday, October 31, 2022. 1:33 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Retired Colonel Shelton Defour, National Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO), has advised residents of the islands of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker and low-lying areas of Belize City to begin making plans to move to shelters or other areas as soon as possible as Tropical Storm Lisa approaches.

The Government of Belize will make a formal declaration on conditions at some point later today or tomorrow, and that means that according to Colonel Defour and Minister of Sustainable Development Orlando Habet, the shelters will be open in certain areas as worked out with the local coordinators, by the latest Tuesday evening. (All schools will be closed as of Tuesday; many of them may be used as shelters).

“The window of opportunity to make certain decisions closes or narrows every hour, and so the islands of San Pedro and Caye Caulker, in terms of their deliberations on scenario planning, they have to look at what time they would tell residents ‘You need to evacuate and get off the island.’ Now to ensure we start that process, we are informing and imploring the public that if you know you are not in a safe place in San Pedro, Caye Caulker, Belize City, and you need to relocate, and you look where you are going, put those plans in place one time,” said Defour during a press briefing.

The islands’ respective committees of NEMO have met and begun planning and plan B, the worst-case scenario, is for residents to shelter in place. Matters are not helped by Tropical Storm Lisa’s increasing speed in the most recent bulletin, reducing the time to move, even though it may take away the chance for it to intensify.

But at some point, said Defour, most likely tomorrow, it will not be safe to travel by sea. In fact, at least one water taxi operation, Caribbean Splinter, has said it will not be available for travel beyond Tuesday. Colonel Defour also noted that the major water taxi operators may be called on to transport evacuees, to the designated shelter in Belmopan, the University of Belize Gymnasium, which was last used in 2012. Mass evacuation would be called for in instances of Category 2 hurricanes and above and so NEMO is monitoring closely in case the system stalls and strengthens, but if people have to shelter in place on the islands then there is no shortage of them.

Defour also noted that where possible, it is ideal to shelter with family and many will do so.

Tropical-storm force winds presently extend 105 miles from the center of Lisa, mostly to the north and northeast, so no part of Belize is expected to be spared regardless of where the system makes landfall.


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