Jamaica: 650 persons in shelters

KINGSTON, (JIS): Thursday, July 07, 2005 - Some 650 persons are now being housed in 19 shelters as the island prepares for the impact of Hurricane Dennis.

Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Dr. Barbara Carby, speaking to journalists at her South Camp Road offices this morning, explained that most of those seeking shelter lived in flood prone areas and the evacuations were primarily a precautionary measure.

She informed that flooding and landslides have been reported in the parish of St. Thomas with the communities of Seaforth, Serge Island, Hillside, Penland Castle, Trinityville and Hagley Gap being most affected. In addition, the Bamboo River and the Brown's Gully are in spate.

The Yallahs fording is impassable and the alternative route is through Easington. All airports have been closed and will remain closed until the hurricane has passed.

Dr. Carby said that reports continue to come in from around the island as all Emergency Operation Centers have been activated.

At 10:00 am on Thursday morning, Hurricane Dennis was located 60 kilometres east of Morant Point and was traveling towards the North West at about 29 kilometres per hour.

According to Director of the Meteorological Service, Sylvia McGill, Dennis will skirt the North Eastern coast but with its northwesterly motion, it would not be as close to the island as was forecasted.

She noted however, that based on the extent of the hurricane force winds at 75 kilometres from the centre, and the storm force winds at 220 kilometres from the centre, the island would experience heavy rainfall, landslides, floods and strong winds as Dennis skirts the northeastern end of the island on its way to Cuba.

She noted that already, the Norman Manley airport was experiencing storm force gusts and these would be stronger in Morant Point and Port Morant.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister P. J. Patterson, who cut short his attendance at the meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in St. Lucia, expressed pleasure at the level of response to the hurricane.

He noted that even through the island would not feel the full impact of the hurricane, there would be some damage and asked that Jamaicans take every precaution to secure their lives and property.

He noted that all facilities were in place to provide shelter for those in needs and further urged shelter seekers to protect the amenities. He added that the Ministry of Labour and Social Security would be providing assistance to those who suffered losses.

The Prime Minister informed, that the security force was in full alert and was fully prepared to deal with those persons who might use the hurricane as a cover for criminal activities.

Mr. Patterson further told journalists, that he had received commitments of assistance from regional and international governments, should the island suffer extensive damage.