Western Ja­maica was pre­pared for Matthew, say stake­hold­ers

Jamaica Gleaner - - WESTERN FOCUS - Christo­pher Thomas Gleaner Writer

STAKE­HOLD­ERS in western Ja­maica are ex­press­ing sat­is­fac­tion with the level of dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness in the re­gion last week, in light of the threat Hur­ri­cane Matthew, which nar­rowly missed the is­land posed. The hur­ri­cane lashed the is­land’s east­ern parishes with heavy show­ers be­fore con­tin­u­ing on to neigh­bour­ing Haiti and Cuba, leav­ing be­hind a trail of de­struc­tion.

Ever­ton Fisher, chair­man of the St El­iz­a­beth Parish Coun­cil, heaped praise upon his parish’s shel­ter man­agers for their role in pre­par­ing res­i­dents to face Hur­ri­cane Matthew, which had reached Cat­e­gory Four at the time it ap­proached the coun­try.

“I would want to thank the shel­ter man­agers who were ac­tive in their re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties. There were a few con­cerns where food was con­cerned and pre-hur­ri­cane al­lo­ca­tion, but the coun­cil­lors were in a po­si­tion to help if the need arose,” said Fisher, who is also the mayor of parish cap­i­tal Black River.

“All of the stake­hold­ers were on board, and we worked closely with each other with what­ever lim­ited re­sources we had. We did some last-minute drain clean­ing to en­sure that flood­ing would not take place in some of the crit­i­cal ar­eas,” he added.

Tony Hart, chair­man of the Western Re­gional Health Author­ity (WRHA), said that the med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties un­der his ju­ris­dic­tion were well pre­pared to deal with the ef­fects of Hur­ri­cane Matthew had it af­fected the is­land.

“It was very good prepa­ra­tion we had, and I think the prepa­ra­tion was spot on, and we are very thank­ful that the hur­ri­cane did not come. I think it was up to par, and I think we are ready for fu­ture oc­cur­rences,” said Hart, though he did not go into de­tail about the WRHA’s spe­cific prepa­ra­tion mea­sures.

Ja­maicans were warned to brace for the po­ten­tially dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of Hur­ri­cane Matthew, with the Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Ser­vice is­su­ing a hur­ri­cane warn­ing in an­tic­i­pa­tion of heavy winds and thun­der­storm con­di­tions. The hur­ri­cane warn­ing was sub­se­quently de­creased to a trop­i­cal storm warn­ing as the eye of Matthew shifted away from Ja­maica’s east coast and went in the di­rec­tion of Haiti.

FU­TURE PREPA­RA­TIONS

Con­cern­ing fu­ture hur­ri­cane-prepa­ra­tion mea­sures, Janelle Rick­etts, re­gional com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager for the Na­tional Works Agency’s (NWA) western re­gion, said cit­i­zens must make spe­cial ef­forts to cor­rect im­proper garbage-dis­posal prac­tices, which of­ten re­sult in blocked drains, which ex­ac­er­bates flood­ing.

“We still have an is­sue with the im­proper dis­posal of waste which con­tin­ues to com­pro­mise our drainage sys­tem, and so go­ing for­ward, we would like to en­cour­age per­sons to prop­erly con­tainer-ise their waste be­cause we are hav­ing a se­ri­ous prob­lem when you look at the de­bris that comes down and blocks the wa­ter­ways,” said Rick­etts.

For Garth Wilkin­son, chair­man of the Trelawny Parish Coun­cil, while he lauded the ef­forts of the parish’s stake­hold­ers in their hur­ri­cane prepa­ra­tion, he cited the need for the re­pair of a firstre­sponse unit and re­lo­ca­tion of the Fal­mouth Pub­lic Hospi­tal from its cur­rent lo­ca­tion near the seashore.

“We do not have a res­cue unit as a first re­spon­der in our parish. We heard that some re­pair work has been done to that unit and we will prob­a­bly get it back by to­mor­row (Oc­to­ber 7),” said Wilkin­son. “The hospi­tal is an­other case in point. We did some sand­bags for them, and it has been there from the 1950s-so we can­not knock it-but the lo­ca­tion is some­thing we have to look at.”

Fisher be­lieves that NWA parish man­agers need to have more au­ton­omy to ad­dress hur­ri­cane-prepa­ra­tion work in­stead of wait­ing for ap­proval, which of­ten does not come in a timely man­ner.

“The NWA (in St El­iz­a­beth) was not in a po­si­tion to re­ally or­der any emer­gency work. They had to rely on their re­gional of­fice and head of­fice, which some­times im­pedes the ef­fec­tive­ness of drain clean­ing,” said Fisher. “If the parish man­agers could have a lit­tle more au­ton­omy in fu­ture, that would be help­ful.”

FILE

The Am­ber Rae boat from Black River ended up a ship­wreck along the Hanover coast­line in the Bull Bay com­mu­nity in 2010 dur­ing a ma­jor storm.

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