Local Government Minister Warns Jamaicans To Take Hurricane Matthew Very Seriously

Jamaicans are being warned to take the threat of Hurricane Matthew seriously, as it travels toward the island. The Hurricane is now a Category Four weather system, and is projected to affect the country by Sunday evening or Monday morning. The Meteorological Service of Jamaica has stated that should the current strength of the Hurricane hold, up to 16 inches of rain could be dumped in eastern parishes. At a special news conference at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) today, portfolio Minister and Deputy Chairman of the National Disaster Council, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, provided details about the state of readiness of ODPEM and its partner Agencies.

“Provisions are being made to take care of our citizens who live on the streets. The Local Authorities have essentially been provided with advance payments from the Parochial Revenue Fund, with instructions that a portion is to be dedicated to the accommodation of homeless people in their areas of jurisdiction. The Shelters and Drop-in Shelters are ready for service, and are to come into operation on Saturday. I also want to note that in addition to partner Ministries such as the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, our cadre of volunteer Agencies such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Food for the Poor etc, are ready to provide relief as the need arises.”

The Minister also stated that ODPEM has distributed various types of relief material to the Local Authorities, such as bedding and water containers. He also stated that the Jamaica Public Service Company will be cutting trees that are entangled with high tension wires, and that the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) will be cleaning drains and other waterways continuously, to ensure efficient storm-water runoff.

On the subject of emergency evacuation, the Minister stated that the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) will be on standby to assist in removing people from specially vulnerable areas if the need arises. He noted that while the law does not currently allow for the compulsory evacuation of people in such areas, they defy any Evacuation Order that may be given, at their own risk. “Let me say that the agents of the State cannot be expected to expose themselves to risk, in circumstances where persons have defied orders to evacuate high-risk areas and then experience adverse consequences. This is a very serious storm, and people need to obey all instructions given, so that no life is lost. This is a national crisis, and it is a national response that the Government of Jamaica is giving.”

Persons who experience any difficulties during this period, are invited to contact the National Emergency Operations Centre at:
960-9674, 906-9675, 754-9077, 754-9078, 754-8497 and 1-888-991-4617.