Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said that the Government will provide the necessary assistance to the family of Romeo Leachman and his daughter Saneeka, who perished when the house in which they lived in Shooters Hill, St. Andrew collapsed, due to land slippage associated with the recent heavy rains.
The Minister gave the commitment during a visit to the area on Saturday (Oct. 25), where the body of 15-year old Saneeka was recovered.
He was accompanied by Member of Parliament for East Rural St. Andrew, the Most Hon. Juliet Holness, and officers from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), National Works Agency (NWA) and the Kingston and St. Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSMC).
The Minister hailed the efforts of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) and the residents in the recovery effort.
“We want to commend them for the community spirit that they have demonstrated; that is what community is all about. In a time of need, the community responded in a positive way and we thank them for it,” he said.
The Minister, in expressing sorrow at the tragedy, which claimed the lives of the father and daughter, said that Jamaicans must give serious consideration to where they build houses.
“We have to restart the discussion on how we live and where we live. We have seen where nature has demonstrated that there are some areas that are not fit for homes to be built,” he noted.
Minister McKenzie said that an initial assessment of the area, which is plagued by land slippage, shows that many of the houses might have to be relocated.
“It might be best based on some of what we are seeing, to relocate persons than to rehabilitate the structures that are severely damaged and compromised,” he pointed out.
Mrs. Holness also expressed sadness at the death of the father and daughter and said that her office will also be assisting the family and providing grief counselling where necessary.
She noted that a number of communities in the constituency have “suffered significant devastation” from the heavy rains and supported Minister McKenzie’s call for persons to be mindful of where and how they build their homes.
Meanwhile, Minister McKenzie, who also visited St. Benedict Heights and the Bull Bay area, said that $20 million will be allocated to clear roads that have been blocked by flooding and landslides.
He said that the funds will be part of an emergency response, while further assessments are carried out.
The JFB will clear water in communities where it is not receding fast enough and some residents will be moved to shelters.
In addition, beginning Monday (Oct. 26), officers from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security will be distributing care packages, while assessments will be carried out to determine further areas of need.
Manager for Communication and Customer Service at the NWA, Stephen Shaw, said that the agency is working overtime to clear blocked roads.
He said that caution is being taken to protect personnel and equipment, as the rains continue.