JIS News

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson yesterday (July 12) said that early indications were that flooding and landslides caused by last week’s passage of Hurricane Dennis, had affected some 119 populated areas.
He was making his presentation in the House of Representatives on the status of the country following the category two hurricane, which impacted the island last Thursday (July 7).
Mr. Patterson informed that an estimated 40 per cent of the banana industry had been lost in the parishes of Portland, St. Thomas and parts of St. Mary that were severely affected. Also, the coffee industry sustained considerable damage from fallen trees and landslides.
However, Mr. Patterson said, no major problems had been identified with respect to yam and vegetables. “Fortunately, the bread-basket areas, which provide much of our domestic food supply, were not too adversely affected. We do not believe that the country’s domestic food supply is likely to be too adversely affected,” he told the House.
The Prime Minister noted that the main damage had been to the road infrastructure with some rivers having overflowed their banks. In St. Thomas, three rivers merged, while 83 roads were blocked. Some of the severely affected areas included Trinityville, Cedar Valley, Penlyne Castle, Westphalia, Cascade, while portions of East Rural St. Andrew were totally cut-off.
The National Water Commission (NWC) shut down some water supply systems just prior to the hurricane, as a protective measure. Some systems continued throughout the hurricane until they were forced out of operation due to worsening conditions, while others operated uninterrupted.
Mr. Patterson further informed, that 137 of 460 water supply systems were put out of operation due to the hurricane, with only 79 not restored. Meanwhile, only one (Yallahs) of 68 wastewater systems, remain out of operation.
He stressed that the NWC was working assiduously to return normality to all of the systems and only some eight per cent of customers were without regular supplies. He informed that the Seaview Water Treatment Plant in St. Andrew would require extensive work and pipes and construction equipment would have to be airlifted. “The communities of Stony Hill, Golden Spring and sections of Jacks Hill and its environs are not likely to have normal supply of water for about two weeks,” the Prime Minister said.
The Rapid Response Unit pre-loaded 54 trucks with water and fuel and will be responding to needs in the affected areas. Trucking is ongoing in St. Mary, Portland, Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Thomas, Manchester and Trelawny.
In addition, just over 100,000 Jamaica Public Service Company (JPSCo) customers lost electricity during the hurricane and approximately 6,000 customers are still without electricity in St. Thomas, Portland, St. Mary and St. Andrew.
Meanwhile, some 82 shelters were opened with 3,221 persons being accommodated up to July 8. Mr. Patterson said that emergency relief supplies were pre-positioned to serve the parishes of St. Mary, Manchester, Portland and Clarendon, allowing supplies to reach persons who were in need as quickly as possible.
Relief items such as bedding, blankets and bleach were also dispatched to the hard hit parishes of St. Thomas and Portland. Detailed welfare assessments began on Monday, July 11 and the shelter population has been reduced to 147, a 95 per cent reduction since last Friday.
In addition, the ODPEM through the Jamaica Defence Force, had airlifted food supplies to communities that were cut off including Halls Delight, Content Gap, Westphalia, Cascade, Penlyne Castle, Hagley Gap, Cedar Valley and Trinityville. “We will have to continue airlifts for this week or certainly until the roads have been cleared,” Mr. Patterson told the House.
The Prime Minister also commended the Cabinet Office team and the various ministries and agencies, including the Local Government Authorities, for the prompt and efficient way in which they prepared for and responded to the disaster. In commending the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), he noted that the office had gained worldwide recognition for its preparation for and management of disaster response.
“We have to be mindful that we are still in the early stage of the hurricane season and we have to proceed on the expectation that we are likely to experience an active one,” Mr. Patterson remarked, noting that in light of this, the government had taken the decision to respond to this disaster by utilising local resources to the maximum extent. “It is clear to us that a dedicated fund is required for mitigation and disaster response,” he indicated.