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Local Government Minister to meet with National Disaster Committee

JIS NEWS, Montego Bay: Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, says he will convene a meeting with the National Disaster Committee on Monday (September 16), to discuss Jamaica’s state of readiness in the event of a disaster.

Mr. McKenzie, who spoke at the monthly meeting of the Trelawny Municipal Corporation, in Falmouth, on Thursday (September 12), said the Government is not prepared to adopt a “wait and see” attitude, and will be proactive in its approach.

“As the local authority with responsibility for preparedness, we must be proactive in what we are doing. Assessments need to be done now as to where we are in terms of our shelters [as well as] the critical areas of the parish that would need attention,” the Minister emphasised.

He said all municipal corporations will be put on notice to activate their respective disaster response mechanisms to ensure that the necessary resources, such as provisions, equipment, volunteers and more, are in place and are ready to be deployed in case of any emergency.

The Minister said the Government is treating this as a vital matter, because more than 98 per cent of the country’s capital towns are near the coast.

“We have to, as a country, start to examine how we treat disasters, and I am saying this today, that we are prepared now to invoke the provisions under the Disaster Risk Management Law that speaks to compulsory evacuation of communities across the country,” Mr. McKenzie said.

“For too long we see where communities that are prone to flooding refuse to heed the call. This Government is not going to put itself in any position because a few refuse to heed the warning. We are prepared to throw the books at those persons who will not accede to the request to relocate if the need arises,” he added.

The Minister also indicated that special attention must be given to the vulnerable and physically challenged. He said they must be put “on a list of priorities, so that we can identify them if the time comes for them to be relocated”.

In response to the hurricane-ravaged neighbouring islands of The Bahamas, the Minister announced that the 14 municipalities across the country have agreed to make donations of US$5,000 to the relief assistance.

He said the money will be lodged to an account that was set up by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).

“ I would urge all of you who can make that contribution to help the plight of the people in The Bahamas to do so. We could be in their position. So, while we are in a much better space today, I am asking that we give to the efforts of the people in The Bahamas,” Mr. McKenzie said.

The donation account is at the National Commercial Bank, Oxford Road Branch, with the account number: 212387304. The name of the account is ‘ODPEM Donation Account’.