The rains on February 13 and 14 and early on 15 saturated the earth to the limit and in dozens of places beyond the capacity. Hundreds of construction projects and roads, many of which are unsupervised and unlicensed, have created sites that have loose, weak soil and almost vertical slopes–conditions especially vulnerable to landslides.
In the middle of the night on February 15, a landslide by the Coxen Hole market destroyed two wooden stores. “One more day and the house on the top would have fallen in,” described Joe Solomon, Roatan Municipal Police chief.
A portion of West Bay road was damaged to the point where one lane had to be closed. Unless work stabilizing the road, the responsibility of the central government, begins soon, further rains are likely to wash out the road completely.
The main road overpass in Coxen Hole has seen landslides in past rainy seasons, and the three days of recent rain caused further collapses. Heavy equipment was deployed to deal with the mud and rocks that spilled onto the island’s main road.
In West End by Nova Bar, the storm water washed out the town road almost completely, leaving a car in a six foot ditch. West End has no proper storm water system, but a paving of the town’s main street is planned for this year.
The Roatan Municipality has set up a system of fast response where local construction companies clear debris to allow the island to quickly recover from such events. The first such opportunity came during a near miss by Hurricane Mathew. The second came with this most recent three days of rain.
One of roughly 10 companies that agreed to keep the roads in order is GS Industries, a construction company in Mud Hole responsible to clear the Mud Hole to Palmetto road. “The road wasn’t too damaged, but it was $1,000 out of pocket,” says Boyd Svoboda, owner of GS Industries, about the company clearing.
According to Ana Svoboda, the president of the Bay Islands of Commerce and GS Industries co-owner, it was only in 2010 that Roatan Municipality organized a system of disaster preparedness and clean up. According to Svoboda, all construction companies on Roatan volunteered to give their time and equipment free of charge to clear Municipal and national roads when disaster strikes. Also 29 temporary refugee shelters have been designated on the Roatan Municipality. [/private]