The Government has activated its disaster preparedness plan, as the country braces for the passage of Tropical Storm Tomas.
Minister with responsibility for Information, Telecommunication and Special Projects, Hon. Daryl Vaz told journalists on (November 1), that the government is not taking the threat of Tropical Storm Tomas lightly and will be putting all necessary measures in place to ensure that the country is as prepared as possible.
Mr. Vaz was addressing journalists at a press briefing, held at Jamaica House.
The latest bulletin from the Meteorological Service has indicated that Tomas continues to weaken in the central Caribbean and has been downgraded to a Tropical Storm from a category one Hurricane.
However, Director of the Met Office, Sylvia McGill, informed that Tomas is expected to re-strengthen into a hurricane before its impact on Jamaica late Wednesday into Thursday.
Mrs. McGill further noted that based on the current path of the storm, the eastern end of the country is expected to be more seriously affected than the rest of the island.
“The turn is expected sometime on Wednesday into Thursday and then between Jamaica and Haiti, Thursday night into Friday morning,” she forecasted. “Storm surges are also a possibility if the system should develop into a hurricane,” she added.
Minister Vaz said that Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding this morning chaired a meeting with all the critical Ministers and heads of agencies that would be activated in the event that a storm or hurricane hits Jamaica.
The country’s disaster plan is being led by the Office of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).
Mr. Vaz said the government found it necessary to be pro-active based on the fact that the country is still recovering from the effects of Tropical Storm Nicole.
“Therefore, there are some very sensitive issues as they relate to persons and communities that are still affected by high water levels (and other issues of dislocation),” he noted.
He said one of the main concerns raised during the meeting was the level of saturation based on the recent rainfall. “This makes it much more dangerous for certain areas in the low lying and mountainous areas,” he explained.
The Minister said as such, ODPEM will be meeting continuously with the relevant agencies and will be sending out bulletins twice a day to ensure that citizens are kept abreast of the weather conditions.
“This is to ensure that the populace and the communities that are most affected will have enough time and enough information to take the decisions that are necessary. These decisions, in terms of what will have to be done, will be co-ordinated among the relevant agencies in discussion with ODPEM,” he pointed out.
The Minister said plans are also in place to implement a hotline where persons in need of assistance may call, particularly for the pruning of trees, in preparation for the storm.
He said ODPEM will also be meeting with the various mobile phone companies with a view to implementing a system where customers are given periodic weather and emergency updates via their cellular phones.
Mr. Vaz said the Prime Minister will be addressing the current procurement policy as it relates to contractors, to implement emergency guidelines for a minimum period.
“This is something that is challenging for the National Solid Waste Management Authority and several other agencies, in terms of preparation for contractors and in getting funds. As such, there may be need to invoke the emergency procurement measures, but it wouldn’t be on a wide- spread basis or anything for abuse. It would be for a specific time, obviously up to a few days between now and when we’re expected to be affected by the weather,” he added.