KINGSTON (JIS) - Monday, July 11, 2005: Preliminary investigations reveal that the island's infrastructure was relatively unscathed by the passage of Hurricane Dennis, which lashed the island yesterday (July 7).
In an interview with JIS News, Dr. Barbara Carby, Director-General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) revealed that torrential rains drenched the island, and for the most part flooding was the major problem.
"The worst affected parishes will be St. Thomas and Portland, and to a lesser extent, St. Catherine and Clarendon, although those seem to be more flood-related and perhaps not so much damage. The problem is though, that in many areas the water is still very high, so you can't really get a true picture of the damage until the water recedes," said Dr. Carby.
The Director-General also noted that the effects of the hurricane were mitigated by the preparedness of the nation.
"We saw an improved response definitely at the parish level. There was more co-ordination, more representation from the different agencies. We really only had about 24 to 36 hours to prepare the nation, but what was really good about this was that we were able to get the parish committees, and the National Response Team to meet and make the necessary plans," she noted.
Dr. Carby and other members of the National Response Team met this morning at the ODPEM to assess the country's needs, following the hurricane, and to chart interim plans to deal with the disaster.
The National Response Team included representatives from key government agencies, private sector and non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
In attendance were representatives from the Ministries of Labour and Social Security; Local Government, Community Development and Sport; Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; Finance; and Education, as well as the National Works Agency (NWA), National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Office of National Reconstruction (ONR), Jamaica Red Cross, Salvation Army, National Water Commission (NWC), National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA), Jamaica Constabulary Force and Jamaica Defence Force. Also present were representatives from Cable and Wireless Jamaica Limited, and MiPhone.
In order to accurately assess the country's needs in the wake of the passage of the category 3 hurricane, "the agencies will be deploying their teams to get a preliminary report on damage and impact," Dr. Carby told JIS News.
A reconnaissance flight was undertaken today (July 8) to view areas in the eastern sections of the island, including St. Thomas, Portland and eastern St. Mary. The Jamaica Defence Force transported the three-member team, which included representatives from ODPEM, the National Water Commission and the Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Sport.
"The first intervention [after assessing the impact] would be emergency repairs, and that has already started in some areas, because the parish councils and NWA have started clearing roads. Restoring access and completing the clearance of the roads and other necessary emergency repairs, looking after the persons who have been affected or displaced, looking after injuries would be the priorities now. After that we'll be more into the recovery phase," Dr. Carby outlined.
In addition, the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology will be spearheading the development of a website dedicated to the recovery effort, which will be used to provide regular updates and other critical information for the hurricane season.