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Local Government Minister Warns That Time Is Running Out For People In Vulnerable Areas To Be Evacuated

Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie, has again urged that people in vulnerable areas who have insisted on remaining in them, leave immediately.

At the latest news briefing on developments regarding Hurricane Matthew today, Minister McKenzie, who is also Deputy Chairman of the National Disaster Council, warned that the last chance for such persons to leave vulnerable areas is now at hand.

“I have said it before and I will say it again…the Government is not prepared to put the lives of our first responders to disasters at risk, because people are being stubborn, and defying the orders to evacuate. If there are people now saying they are ready to leave, that is a conversation that would have to be had with our responders, including the Jamaica Defence Force. We are prepared to consider the matter one more time, and then it is final.”

Residents of Port Royal are among those in vulnerable areas who have largely refused to leave the town, despite appeals from their Member of Parliament, and the provision of buses by the Jamaica Urban Transit Company, to take them to the National Arena. There are also people on the Pedro Cays who have also defied orders to evacuate.

With regard to shelters, the Minister advised that they are all open. He also stated that the Cabinet has directed that food is to be provided at the shelters from the outset. Traditionally, people who seek access to shelters are advised to take food, personal care products and other sundries to the shelters.

On the subject of drain and gully cleaning in preparation for the Hurricane, the Minister made it clear that while the National Solid Waste Management Authority and the National Works Agency are working assiduously, the practices of many people are undermining their best efforts. “Let me be plain. Even if a billion dollars a day was spent cleaning drains and gullies, it would be a pointless exercise because people keep throwing garbage and solid waste into the gullies. And it is not only people downtown who are guilty of these things. People from all sections of the society are doing them. We need to have a conversation about the civic pride that that has been lost in the country, and how we can get it to return. What I am prepared to say however, is that by next week, I will be going to Cabinet with proposals for the increases in fines for littering.”