Ready for MATTHEW

Gov’t says it’s pre­pared for hurricane, Ja­maicans urged to store wa­ter

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jo­van John­son and Ro­mario Scott Gleaner Writ­ers

THE GOV­ERN­MENT late last night de­clared that it was pre­pared to deal with the im­pend­ing passage of Matthew, which, yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, be­came the fifth hurricane of the 2016 sea­son.

The sys­tem, which is ex­pected to pass near Ja­maica on Mon­day, bring­ing heavy rains and strong winds, has al­ready dev­as­tated sec­tions of the East­ern Caribbean and has left one per­son dead in St Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines.

Prime Min­is­ter Andrew Hol­ness held an emer­gency meet­ing with mem­bers of par­lia­ment (MPs) as well as the coun­try’s emer­gency agen­cies at Ja­maica House yes­ter­day.

Not all MPs at­tended the meet­ing, which ran for more than an hour, but there was con­sen­sus among them that Ja­maica is pre­pared.

In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter Ruel Reid, who chaired the meet­ing, said the Na­tional Emer­gency Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre would be ac­ti­vated today.

He also said Hol­ness would be meet­ing with Fi­nance Min­is­ter Aud­ley Shaw with the aim of re­leas­ing more money from the Con­stituency Devel­op­ment Fund to MPs.

“It was a great meet­ing. We’ve tried to be proac­tive in put­ting the na­tion on alert. We are pre­pared,” Reid told The Gleaner.

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Des­mond McKen­zie said par­ish coun­cils have been told to use money from their parochial rev­enue fund to fi­nance any nec­es­sary drain clean­ing.

HOP­ING FOR $500,000

Op­po­si­tion MP Ho­race Dal­ley com­mended the prime min­is­ter for call­ing the MPs to a meet­ing.

Dal­ley, not­ing that Hol­ness has com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing con­cerns about the ac­ces­si­bil­ity to equip­ment to clear blocked roads and the pro­vi­sion of sup­plies for shel­ters, said he hoped MPs would get at least $500,000 each to help with their pre­pared­ness and re­sponse.

Mean­while, head of the Na­tional Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ser­vice Evan Thomp­son said up to eight inches of rain is ex­pected to be dumped on the is­land with the passage of Hurricane Matthew.

“Right now, it’s mov­ing

west­ward, but it should make that turn to­wards the north, and it is ex­pected, at this time, to pass over the Wind­ward Passage, which is be­tween Ja­maica and Haiti.

“It should pass us on Mon­day morn­ing [and] it’s ex­pected to be a cat­e­gory two at that time. There’s the pos­si­bil­ity for it to fur­ther strengthen. We ex­pect quite a bit of rain­fall across the is­land. As it moves closer to the east coast, we ex­pect the heav­i­est ac­tiv­ity to be sur­round­ing the eye of the sys­tem and ex­tend­ing out­ward from there.”

Along the east coast are St Thomas, Port­land, St Mary, and Kingston and St Andrew.

“As it moves west­ward, the rain­fall will de­crease some­what, but we could still get sig­nif­i­cant amounts of rain­fall right across the is­land, and the wind speeds could at least be up to trop­i­cal-storm force even in west­ern parishes,” Thomp­son said.

Mean­while, the Na­tional Wa­ter Com­mis­sion (NWC) is ad­vis­ing cus­tomers to store wa­ter for use in the event that piped wa­ter sup­ply is dis­rupted.

NWC Pres­i­dent Mark Bar­nett said the agency ac­ti­vated its in­ter­nal dis­as­ter­pre­pared­ness mech­a­nisms yes­ter­day and an emer­gency meet­ing on prepara­tory ac­tiv­i­ties was held with staff.

NO OIL WOR­RIES

Ja­maica’s sole oil re­fin­ery, Petro­jam, has given the as­sur­ance that the petroleum mar­ket “will be ad­e­quately sup­plied” with fuel should Hurricane Matthew af­fect the is­land.

Win­ston Wat­son, the com­pany’s gen­eral man­ager, said there is a sup­ply of prod­ucts to last up to 21 days.

He said plans are in place to ex­tend the open­ing hours of the load­ing racks in Kingston and Mon­tego Bay to fa­cil­i­tate ad­e­quate ac­cess to fuel sup­plies.

Mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies are be­ing ad­vised to stock up on fuel in the event the weather sys­tem is con­firmed to make land­fall.

In the mean­time, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in the east­ern end of the is­land say plans are well ad­vanced in the prepa­ra­tion for the grad­u­ally strength­en­ing hurricane.

Mayor of St Thomas Lud­low Mathi­son yes­ter­day told The Gleaner that the Par­ish Dis­as­ter Com­mit­tee was meet­ing to fine-tune its plans.

He said two months ago, the Of­fice of Dis­as­ter Pre­pared­ness and Emer­gency Man­age­ment was part of a meet­ing with a wider stake­holder group and “ev­ery­body was on board and knew what was re­quired of them [dur­ing the hurricane sea­son].

“[This in­cludes] all the rel­e­vant peo­ple in the par­ish – the po­lice, the fire­fight­ers, the Min­istry of Labour, Ja­maica Pub­lic Ser­vice, health min­istry, so­cial se­cu­rity, Sal­va­tion Army – and ev­ery­thing was very clear to ev­ery­body,” Mathi­son fur­ther said.

FLOOD­ING CON­CERN

While not­ing that the par­ish coun­cil had car­ried out drain clean­ing and other ac­tiv­i­ties months ago, Mathi­son ex­pressed con­cern for the flood-prone com­mu­nity of Aud­ley.

“We could clean drain ‘til Thy king­dom come, I think Aud­ley is go­ing to need some ex­per­tise. Only the ex­perts can help Aud­ley be­cause all sorts of prob­lems are there,” he in­sisted.

As for Port­land, Mayor Wayne McKen­zie said he has taken note of the re­cent devel­op­ment and has made cer­tain that the ba­sic struc­tures are in place for the par­ish coun­cil to per­form its du­ties in the event Matthew ar­rives.

“The en­tire emer­gency re­sponse team is sen­si­tised and ready. We have been clean­ing drains over the past cou­ple of weeks, so we ex­pect to be in a very good po­si­tion as it re­lates to our drainage work,” he said.

He told The Gleaner that though Port An­to­nio was a ma­jor flood-prone area in the par­ish, he had con­cerns about other ar­eas that were sus­cep­ti­ble to land slip­pages.

“Buff Bay Val­ley, Rio Grande Val­ley, and sec­tions of the town, the Hope Bay Val­ley is a steep area, Shirley Cas­tle ... those ar­eas are highly sus­cep­ti­ble and the re­sult is that those ar­eas will have road­blocks,” McK­enize said.

The par­ish coun­cil may not have enough equip­ment to re­spond to the block­ages that fol­low the passage of the hurricane, if it does come, and that is a ma­jor area of con­cern for the mayor.

“Based on past ex­pe­ri­ence, we might not have enough to re­spond in a speedy man­ner, es­pe­cially if we are hit hard.”

DARIEN ROBERT­SON/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Gov­ern­ment min­is­ters J.C. Hutchin­son (left), Karl Sa­muda (se­cond left), and Ruddy Spencer in con­ver­sa­tion af­ter yes­ter­day's emer­gency meet­ing at the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter in St Andrew. Also pic­tured in the back­ground are House Speaker Pear­nel Charles and gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Der­rick Smith (right).

TAKEN FROM NA­TIONAL HURRICANE CEN­TER

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