Jamaica: Flood prone areas to be given special attention - Dr. Carby

KINGSTON, July 6 (JIS): Thursday, July 07, 2005 - Flood prone areas are being given special attention as the island braces itself for Hurricane Dennis, the effects of which are expected to affect Jamaica by midnight.

Speaking at a press briefing to update members of the media on plans for the Category One hurricane, Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Dr. Barbara Carby, said that while persons in flood-prone areas such as Portland Cottage had been evacuated, persons in areas prone to landslides and debris flows should also take precaution.

"If you live on a landslide, move within the same community, but to an area which has not had a landslide", she advised.

"For flood prone areas generally, we say what we always do, and that is, if you live in a flood-prone area, you will experience problems in the event of a hurricane. It means that you must evacuate to higher ground early.if you are going to a public shelter, be sure to take with you some items of bedding, blankets, sheets, non- perishable food items, water and other essential things," Dr. Carby suggested.

She said that unlike the case of Hurricane Ivan, ODPEM would not be moving persons from the St. Catherine community of Portmore to the National Arena in Kingston, but would instead be relocating them to shelters in that municipality.

"We, in fact, are asking persons in all coastal areas to move inland. However, because of the expected intensity of the storm, we will not be moving persons from Portmore to the Arena". Dr. Carby said all the shelters in coastal areas were to be opened immediately to enable persons to move in.

Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Alvin McIntosh, said the welfare response system had largely been decentralised. "In other words, instead of maintaining a central store, what we have done is to arrange with the local supermarket operators and wholesalers to provide whatever items might be necessary," he explained, adding that "the parish managers will work alongside members of the Parish Disaster Committee".

Transport and Works Minister, Robert Pickersgill also informed that the Port Authority of Jamaica had already begun closing down the ports and that the airports would await instruction from the Civil Aviation Authority. In addition, he said, the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) was prepared for any evacuation that was necessary, while the National Works Agency (NWA) was on full alert. In the case of an emergency the NWA can be contacted at 968-0621 or 926-583.

State Minister in the Ministry, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, assured that a number of the critical drains had been had been cleaned. He revealed that an initial allocation of $25 million had been made available for work under the Disaster Mitigation Programme.

The State Minister said that arising from the experience with Hurricane Ivan last September, some specific problem areas were being targeted. "There are some critical corridors across the country where we have pre-positioned equipment and manpower to move swiftly," he noted.

The Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sport has allocated some $20 million to local authorities to deal with critical drains.