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Ministry to ramp up earthquake preparedness activities

KINGSTON, Jamaica: The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development is to intensify its earthquake preparedness activities following the 7.7 tremor that was felt in parts of the island last month.


Minister Desmond McKenzie said the heightened activities include town hall meetings that began in Port Antonio, Portland.


“We’re going into St. Elizabeth on February 13 for another town hall and we’re going to Lucea, the following week on the 20th. We will be going across the entire length and breadth of Jamaica into the town centres, into communities and into the schools,” he told residents of Stettin, South Trelawny during a recent special handover ceremony for an indigent house.


“We are going to be using the councillors, the Members of Parliament, the churches, all the interests groups to assist, because this is not something that the Government alone can undertake. This needs the total participation of every man and woman of this country.”


The Ministry will lead the charge through its affiliate agency, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), which is responsible for coordinating disaster and emergency activities towards protecting the Jamaican populace.


The January 28 quake was felt mainly in western Jamaica, and its epicentre was reportedly recorded some 80 miles off the coast of Lucea in Hanover.


Minister McKenzie ordered the activation of the disaster committees in the region as a precautionary measure in the aftermath of the quake.


He also urged the citizenry to take the necessary precautions to ensure safety in the event of natural disasters.


The Minister added that while there were reports of structural damage in St. Catherine, St. James, St. Elizabeth and Westmoreland, in the wake of the January 28 tremor, the greatest impact was on the psychological well-being of citizens.


“The day will go down in history as perhaps one of the most traumatic in this country’s history. We have taken too many things for granted in this country and Tuesday (January 28) was definitely an eye-opener,” he said.


“This is the worst earthquake we have had since 1993, and we cannot measure the psychological damage that has been created on the country.”


In the meantime, the Jamaica Fire Brigade, whose personnel are first responders in the event of a disaster, will be provided with additional fire trucks, protective gears and tools.