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The Government has enlisted the assistance of the Jamaica Defence Force's (JDF) engineering unit to expedite the construction of some 500 houses for residents, whose homes were destroyed during the passage of Hurricane Sandy, by Christmas Day (December 25).

Speaking at the weekly Jamaica House press briefing on Thursday (December 6), Minister with responsibility for  Housing, Hon. Dr. Morais Guy, informed that to date, there are 82 houses in varying stages of construction.

The project, which commenced in November, in collaboration with Food for the Poor, will see homes being built for residents in the parishes of St. Mary, Portland and St. Thomas.

Minister Guy noted that so far, 28 houses have been completed, “10 foundations have been added and the rest are in varying stages of completion.”

“We have, however, recognised that we will not be in a position, solely with the help of Food for the Poor, to achieve the complete building of the houses by the 25th of December. Hence, the Jamaica Defence Force engineering unit as of last evening, are now working in tandem with  Food for the Poor, on the construction of these houses,” he stated.

Dr. Guy said the incessant rains in the eastern parishes over the past few weeks, has delayed construction to some extent, but assured that the project will be completed within good time.

In the meantime, he noted that the Government is also working closely with a number of the families who will be relocated, as they are living in areas that are highly vulnerable to environmental hazards.

The Minister said this relates specifically, to communities that are prone to flooding and storm surges and areas that are not approved for building. These include communities such as Manchioneal and Annotto Bay in Portland.

He noted that representatives from various government Ministries and departments have been working closely with the families to ensure that they are emotionally prepared for the major transition.

Dr. Guy said the Government has identified crown lands in the respective parishes to which the residents will be relocated, and as such, has been working with the National Works Agency (NWA) to clear those areas and begin construction.