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JIS News

Only three of the 14 emergency shelters in St. Catherine, which housed evacuees of communities in the parish, that were severely affected during the passage of Tropical Storm Gustav, remain occupied.
The shelters, two of which are schools, and the third, a church, currently house close to 100 occupants, comprising adults and children. Upwards of 650 individuals were being housed in 14 of the 60 shelters, all of which were opened, after the island was placed on a tropical storm warning.
The diminishing number of occupants in the shelters, comes as individuals vacate the facilities, and return to their homes to salvage, if any, the remains of their personal effects, and to try to get their lives back on track.
Chairman of the St. Catherine Parish Council, and Mayor of Spanish Town, Dr. Andrew Wheatley, told JIS News, that despite the provision of food and other relief supplies at these remaining occupied shelters, efforts are being made to have the occupants vacate the schools, in particular, in light of the commencement of the 2008/09 academic year, being only days away. He said, however, that this effort has proved challenging, as most of the individuals remaining have no alternative accommodation.
“Yes, it poses a challenge. But we’re trying our best to see if we can put them up. If their homes are completely destroyed, we will try to locate them to a more comfortable environment, until they are able to sort themselves out,” he told JIS News.
Dr. Wheatley noted that as a result of the stress associated with the losses sustained and dislocation experienced, psychological support is being provided.
“We understand the impact that such a disaster can have on them psychologically. So we have provided them with that level of support also,” he informed.
The Mayor advised that, following a ‘post storm’ meeting of the St. Catherine Parish Disaster Committee, a decision was taken to undertake and complete a preliminary assessment of the damage throughout the parish, by Wednesday (September 3). This, he informed, will be submitted to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS).
In the meantime, Dr. Wheatley said work is being carried out to clear the markets, roadways, and blocked drains throughout the parish. He said this is a collaborative effort, involving the National Works Agency (NWA), Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), National Water Commission (NWC), and the MLSS.
“As we get the reports, we feed them to the NWA, NWC, and the JPS. Of course, the MLSS is assisting by providing help to those persons affected,” he disclosed.