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Wildfires claim Cadenas BDF post, Maya farm lands across central Toledo District

Posted: Monday, May 20, 2024. 9:43 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: While now apparently under control, the Toledo District is in a state of public emergency due to devastating wildfires that scorched farm lands and rain forests in and around the key villages of San Pedro Columbia and San Antonio, stretching as far south as the Cadenas Belize Defence Force (BDF) outpost near Graham Creek.

Deputy Commander of the Belize Defence Force, Colonel Anthony Velasquez told Channel 5 News tonight, Monday, soldiers began evacuating due to intense smoke. From the recently repaired Sarstoon Forward Operating Base they continued to conduct daily patrols in the area and remove other equipment, but on Sunday, they found that the outpost had been burned down.

Basilicas Choco, Chairman of San Pedro Columbia, estimated that about 70 percent of farmers in the village were affected, mainly in their store buildings, particularly cacao and corn crops and fruit and coconut trees.

The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) spearheaded the effort to suppress the fires, evacuate villagers and has already begun assessments of the losses. Area Representative for Toledo West, Oscar Requeña, toured the affected areas along with Minister of Disaster Risk Management, Andre Perez. Coordinator Daniel Mendez measured the impact to be “very severe” and to require “a significant amount in terms of the recovery of these areas.”

Meanwhile, Colonel Velasquez says Belize does not intend to abandon the Cadenas area while rebuilding occurs, as patrols will continue from the Sarstoon FOB.

Residents are advised to avoid the use of fire to clear brush and land for farming during this peak time for the threat of wildfires.

 

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