Hurricane Dean hit Jamaica on Sunday with a level of devastation in sections of the island which was even greater than what we experienced with hurricane Ivan.
Thankfully we did not sustain a direct hit and god spared us yet again. We have every reason to give thanks to him for his loving-kindness and keeping care. I am therefore asking that all our faith-based institutions use their services this weekend to offer thanksgiving to god.
I am heartened by the fact that while as a praying people we did petition our god, we also were more prepared both as individuals and as institutions for the onslaught of hurricane Dean. It is because of the level of preparedness that the damage done has not been as severe in many instances as was the case in hurricane Ivan.
As government we activated our emergency systems early and I convened on Friday last, a meeting of the national disaster committee where I received reports from a number of government agencies, the utility companies and NGOS.
Our attention since the hurricane has been focused on rapid recovery and restoration. I am happy to report that significant progress is being made.
Approximately 135,000 customers of the Jamaica public service company or over 20% of the 560,000 customers of electricity have now had their service restored. These customers are primarily in the parishes of Kingston And St Andrew, St James, Trelawny, Hanover, Westmoreland And St Ann.
The restoration process has been much slower in the parishes of St Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, St Elizabeth, St Thomas And Portland, as a result of extensive damage to the power system in those areas. The JPS has stated that the damage from hurricane Dean on its transmission system is significantly greater than the damage caused by hurricane Ivan. I have been assured by the JPS that everything is being done to restore power to the majority of customers by the weekend.
State of public emergency
I did promise that I would be doing daily reviews on the state of public emergency and would revoke the order as soon as it is safe to do so. The order remains in force as only 20% of the country has electricity.
I could not continue to profess care for this nation and people, if I allowed them to be at the mercy of a few misguided criminals operating under the cover of darkness.
It is a shame that an action taken for the protection of all Jamaicans in a time of crisis should be used as a political football.
All over the country children are traumatized by the passage of hurricane Dean and the loss of their homes and disruption to their lives. This action has been taken to protect your lives and property and nothing else. No one should take advantage of a crisis of this magnitude to score political points.
Our children now need safe homes, protection, reassurance and love, not a political debate on procedural issues. I ask everyone to band together and look out for each other in this time and put away the political divisiveness.
I give you my assurance that as soon as electricity is restored to most of the island i will advise the governor general to lift this state of public emergency which is being used only to protect life and property
In terms of water, 80% of the national water commission’s water supply systems were affected by hurricane Dean. Since the passage of the hurricane, water supply along nearly all the coastal areas from Savanna La Mar, Negril, Montego Bay, Falmouth, Ocho Rios, through to Port Maria has been reactivated.
Nearly all the largest water supply systems are now back in operation using available standby generators and through power supplied by the jps. Approximately 50% of production capacity is now back in operation.
The NWC along with the rapid response unit and private contractors have been trucking water to affected areas with priority placed on hospitals, health facilities other public facilities and shelters.
In terms of shelters I can report that, approximately half of the 5000 persons who were housed in shelters have now left the shelters.
In terms of damage to our road network, the national works agency reported that some 379 roads were affected of which 322 have been cleared. They are still experiencing problems in northern areas but work is progressing at a rapid and sustained pace.
In addition, the national solid waste management authority has cleared all the major roads islandwide, including those in major tourist areas. Work is proceeding in the corporate area on a street-by-street basis. They are currently working in areas such as
. Maxfield Avenue
. Waltham park road
. Spanish town road
. Molynes road and among areas.
Work is ongoing across the island with clean-up operations underway.
. Montego bay
. Ocho rios
. Portland, and
. St Elizabeth
However, the NSWMa has a need for more trucks. I am, therefore, appealing to persons with trucks to help us in this major effort to clean up our streets.
Coordination of reconstruction
Much has been accomplished in the three days since hurricane Dean. I must commend staff at all levels of the various agencies and companies involved in the restoration process.
The government will be ensuring that our restoration process is as smooth, efficient and as rapid as possible. I wish to announce that one of the country’s finest public servants, a man with a strong record of performance has accepted my invitation to head a special agency that will coordinate the reconstruction effort. I refer to the Hon Kingsley Thomas.
A large number of homes lost roofs and were otherwise seriously damaged by hurricane Dean.
The approach by the government will be in two phases.
In the short term, we will be providing tarpaulins to affected households as a temporary measure. This afternoon USAID airlifted to Jamaica supplies consisting of temporary roofing supplies, water supply containers, family hygiene kits and blankets. On Friday, we expect a similar airlift from the government and people of Spain.
The ODPEM which has stocks of tarpaulins have already started distribution. Owing to the level of need, however, the government has made arrangements to bring into Jamaica an additional 10,000 tarpaulins and these should be ready for distribution within two days.
In addition, the national housing trust in a joint-venture arrangement with the building societies has established a special 500 million dollar programme to provide loans to affected householders to undertake emergency repairs. The interest rate applicable on these loans will be 6 per cent per annum.
The NHT will also provide a three-month moratorium on mortgage payments, covering September 1st to November 30. In recognition of its responsibility to the people of Jamaica, the trust is also making 200 million dollars available to the hurricane relief fund.
Fellow Jamaicans, in a time of national disaster, we need to ensure that food, a basic of life is not denied to anyone. We recognize that many persons stocked up in anticipation of hurricane Dean.
We also recognize that many persons have suffered spoilage of foodstuffs. We also recognize that many persons have not been able, owing to the disruption caused by hurricane Dean, to receive their regular earnings.
As result and to ensure that no member of the Jamaican family is deprived of basic nutrition, we have decided on the following:
- For the 90,000 households under the path programme, a special one off allowance of $2000 per household will be granted immediately.
This will benefit approximately 230,000 individuals.
The payments are currently being prepared and should be in the hands of the beneficiaries by this week end.
The total cost of this is $180 million.
- For the 80,000 nis pensioners, our elderly and senior citizens including those who are disabled, we will be providing a special allowance of $5000 each immediately to assist them through this difficult period.
This will amount to some $ 400 million.
- We are currently in the process of finalizing a voucher system through which citizens in need who do not fall in any of the above categories will be able to purchase food supplies through the existing retail trade.
The details of this programme will be announced by Thursday of this week.
In order to ensure full transparency and accountability in the distribution of these vouchers, we intend to request the ministers fraternal in each parish to be in charge of the distribution of these vouchers in collaboration with ODPEM.
Fellow Jamaicans, we have also decided to provide urgent assistance to the agricultural sector which was hit very hard by the strong winds of hurricane Dean.
The worst affected parishes are Portland, Clarendon, St Thomas, Manchester St Catherine And St Elizabeth. We are providing $225 million in emergency assistance to the agricultural sector:
- There will be an immediate allocation of $100 million for the purchase of fertilizer to be distributed free of cost under the direction of the jas and rada.
- An immediate $25 million grant will be allocated to the blue mountain coffee farmers.
- The ministry’s $50 million fruit tree programme will be accelerated under the emergency assistance programme.
As you all know the health of the nation is critically important. The health sector has been one of the priority sectors for attention in this recovery period.
17 of our 23 hospitals are now offering full service-up from five yesterday. The remaining six are offering in-patient and emergency services.
All our health centres in St. Ann, Portland, St. Mary, St. James are offering full services. In terms of public health, all the necessary preventative and vector control measures are being used to ensure the protection of our people.
Everybody knows that our children are very near and dear to my heart. I am happy to report all 2,600 children in our 62 children’s homes and places of safety are safe and provided for. I commend the dedicated staff in these homes who are taking care of these wards of the state.
I would like to commend those governments and international organisations, which have pledged assistance to Jamaica. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the government of Trinidad and Tobago which has already provided us $3 million or $23 million tt dollars in assistance. I would also like to thank Barbados for its offer of assistance as well the Cayman islands, Canada, the United States, Spain and Venezuela.
This morning i received a call from president lula of brazil and he has promised to mobilize assistance for us. I thank the international community for its show of support and solidarity in our hour of need.
I would like to thank a number of agencies, which have worked gallantly in the restoration and relief process. Organisations internationally and locally such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army. ADRA, the catholic relief services and other faith-based institutions as well as the Jamaica fire brigade, the security forces ODPEM and others.
I must pay special tribute to you, the Jamaican people whose true spirit of cooperation, togetherness, unity and resilience came to the fore. We have tackled this challenge from hurricane Dean with resourcefulness, creativity and determination. If we can savour this true Jamaican spirit and take it beyond this challenge, then our country as a whole would benefit significantly.
We are a strong people. We can meet whatever challenges, which lie ahead as long as we put our trust in god and work in unity. May god bless all of you as we continue to build Jamaica. Land we love