'THIS IS IT

Ja­maica braces for the worst from Hur­ri­cane Matthew Gov't pleads for at-risk res­i­dents to re­lo­cate

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - An­dre Poyser Staff Re­porter

AS FLOOD­ING from brief pe­ri­ods of tor­ren­tial rain­fall ex­posed the loom­ing threat of Hur­ri­cane Matthew, Min­is­ter of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment and Com­mu­nity Devel­op­ment Des­mond McKen­zie yes­ter­day lamented the fact that res­i­dents of low-ly­ing and flood­prone ar­eas have re­peat­edly re­fused to heed calls for them to evac­u­ate.

McKen­zie, who was ad­dress­ing a press con­fer­ence to give an up­date on Ja­maica’s readi­ness for the pas­sage of Matthew, in­di­cated that sev­eral at­tempts to en­cour­age res­i­dents in Port Royal and other ar­eas to re­lo­cate have proven fu­tile.

“We can­not put the lives of our first re­spon­ders at risk, and as such, I am plead­ing with res­i­dents to heed the calls to re­lo­cate. We have made buses avail­able to trans­port peo­ple to the Na­tional Arena,” he said. FLOODED ROAD­WAYS

McKen­zie was speak­ing at the same time that com­muters strug­gled to make their way along flooded road­ways in sec­tions of the Cor­po­rate Area af­ter short spells of rain­fall, likely to be mul­ti­plied sev­eral times over some time to­day into to­mor­row.

Ac­cord­ing to McKen­zie, the arena was made avail­able from

Satur­day, but res­i­dents are yet to take up the Gov­ern­ment’s of­fer to re­lo­cate them.

De­spite the fact that legislation for manda­tory evac­u­a­tion has been passed, McKen­zie ar­gued that it can­not be en­forced as the at­ten­dant reg­u­la­tions have not been drafted.

As Hur­ri­cane Matthew crawls to­wards Ja­maica, the Of­fice of Dis­as­ter Pre­pared­ness and Emer­gency Man­age­ment (ODPEM) has in­di­cated that it has pulled out all the stops to pre­pare the coun­try for what could be the worst weather sys­tem to af­fect Ja­maica since Hur­ri­cane Gil­bert.

The dis­as­ter agency has, since news of the im­pend­ing hur­ri­cane broke last week, been ac­ti­vat­ing its prepa­ra­tion and re­sponse sys­tems.

Fol­low­ing an emer­gency coun­cil meet­ing con­vened by Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness, the Hur­ri­cane Stand­ing Or­ders and the Na­tional Emer­gency Op­er­a­tion Cen­tre (NEOC) were ac­ti­vated.

The NEOC, housed at ODPEM’s head of­fice, is the des­ig­nated ad­min­is­tra­tive hub for dis­as­ter or emer­gency re­sponse and is con­sid­ered the cen­tral point of con­tact for dis­as­ter re­sponse and re­cov­ery ser­vices.

The NEOC was yes­ter­day ad­vanced to a Level 3, the high­est level of ac­ti­va­tion. Level 3 ac­ti­va­tion is the full re­sponse phase of dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness and in­volves the roll­out of ser­vices by ODPEM, first re­spon­ders and sup­port agen­cies.

SEV­ERAL SHEL­TERS OPENED

The agency has said that the more than 1,000 shel­ters have been equipped with beds, food and emer­gency sup­plies. Se­cu­rity ar­range­ments have also been made for the shel­ters.

Up to yes­ter­day, Hur­ri­cane Matthew was mov­ing in a north­west­erly di­rec­tion on a path that will take its cen­tre far­ther east of Ja­maica than was orig­i­nally pro­jected.

“The sys­tem is not mov­ing away from Ja­maica. What is hap­pen­ing is that the fore­cast track has shifted to the east,” di­rec­tor of the Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ser­vice of Ja­maica, Evan Thomp­son, told the press brief­ing.

Thomp­son also noted that the hur­ri­cane is not ex­pected to make land­fall, but will weaken as it passes Ja­maica.

The cen­tre of the Cat­e­gory Four storm is now slated to pass near­est Ja­maica this evening into to­mor­row.

Matthew is ex­pected to pro­duce dan­ger­ously high wa­ter or a com­bi­na­tion of dan­ger­ously high wa­ter and ex­cep­tion­ally high waves, even though winds ex­pected may be less than hur­ri­cane force.

The fore­cast from the Met Ser­vice into Wed­nes­day pre­dicts wide­spread show­ers and thun­der­storms.

PHOTO BY OMARI MOR­GAN

A man walks away from his bro­ken-down mo­tor car as tor­ren­tial rain­fall floods a sec­tion of Trafal­gar Road, St An­drew, yes­ter­day.

NOR­MAN GRINDLEY/CHIEF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

A sec­tion of Por­tia Simp­son Miller Square in St An­drew un­der wa­ter yes­ter­day af­ter a shower of rain.

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