Disaster Preparedness Must Take Centre Stage – States PM


Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has stated that disaster preparedness should take centre stage in the Caribbean given the fact that natural disasters are a reality for which the region must be prepared. He said a regional response apparatus to include the strengthening of the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) would have to be developed, adding that each country should however take steps to develop its own national capabilities.
Mr. Patterson was speaking on arrival in Grenada on Wednesday (Sept. 22) for a one-day official visit to the island that has been devastated by hurricane Ivan.
“For us in the Caribbean disaster preparedness and emergency management is not just a side issue or a luxury. Look on the spate of natural disasters which have befallen the region in the last few years. There are some countries that have experienced three hurricanes in one year. We have never seen a hurricane season such as this in recent memory,” Mr. Patterson stated.
He said attention must be given to the protection of coastal strips as well as an insistence on strong environmental practices especially in countries where there is a heavy dependence on tourism. Mr. Patterson said also that countries of the region would have to revisit existing building codes, as it was not prudent for people to continue building in areas that belong to nature.
“Certainly in Jamaica we have already taken the decision that some of the new houses that we are going to be building can’t be placed on their previous location because at anytime nature will come to reclaim them,” Mr. Patterson said.
The Prime Minister noted that the impact of Ivan on both Jamaica and Grenada has been extensive and that the first priority must be the provision relief, followed by reconstruction.
“Our first priority now, all of us, must be to deal with the relief efforts and to proceed on the reconstruction exercise, learning as much as we can from recent experience,” Mr. Patterson said.
He pointed out that although the eye of hurricane Ivan did not pass directly over Jamaica the island had been severely affected, adding that the damage could have been much worse if Jamaica had not been prepared and the people had not heeded the warnings as they did.
The Prime Minister also met with Grenadian Opposition Leader Hon. Tillman Thomas and got an aerial view of the devastation in some of the worst affected areas of the island.

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