JIS News

Mayor of Portmore, Councillor George Lee has called for the establishment of a special disaster fund that would fast-track disaster relief response from municipalities across the island. The Mayor said the special fund would allow disaster response agencies to move more quickly to offer assistance to persons severely affected by a disaster, address infrastructural problems in a shorter time and shorten the re-building period following a disaster.
Speaking with JIS News, Mayor Lee said during the passage of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 the Portmore Council spent nearly $6 million to provide disaster relief from its budget, while a significant amount was also spent following Hurricanes Dennis and Emily.
“Each time a hurricane approaches we have to spend money to make sure the critical drains are cleaned, that food is provided and shelters are looked after,” he noted. Mayor Lee said this was a cost that signalled the need for a coordinated response to disasters with some funding from central government. “Local authorities cannot be expected to meet the burden of these incidents,” he said, adding, “this is why I continue to call for a special disaster fund, set up by the Cabinet, that can assist local authorities to meet relief demands following disasters”.
Explaining how the disaster fund would work, the Mayor pointed out that in the event of a major disaster, whether it had to do with roads, drains, rehabilitation for persons affected or providing food, an estimate would be provided on the ground and a government officer would interface with the local authority. Financial assistance would then be provided after careful assessment.
Turning to the current flooding being experienced in several areas in Portmore and its environs Mayor Lee said given the continued rains not a lot could be done immediately to abate the situation. He noted however, “right now we have equipment on the road opening up some critical areas that will allow pooled water to flow”. “In fact we are working closely with the National Works Agency with respect to the major roads leading to and in Portmore, while the municipality is taking care of the other internal roads,” he added.
Some 15 persons have sought shelter at the Gregory Park All-Age School, Mayor Lee informed. Evacuation plans are in place and ready to be activated in the event of major flooding.