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JIS News

As the nation braces for a very active hurricane season this year, the National Works Agency (NWA) is taking steps to ensure that the nation’s highways and other thoroughfares are able to withstand the onslaught of the heavy, persistent rains and the attendant flooding.
“We have revised our disaster preparedness plan to reflect what we have learnt from Hurricane Ivan,” said Petra-kene Williams, Acting Communications and Customer Services Manager at the NWA.
“We looked at the strategies we employed, our resources and how these are to be mobilised in the event of a disaster, and we have refined the plan in terms of our main road network, our bridge network, our flood and sea defence systems as well as buildings and equipment that we operate,” she told JIS News.
According to Miss Williams, the Ministry of Transport and Works and the NWA have formulated a Disaster Mitigation Management Programme, based on the analysis of data collected over the last four years.Since 2001 Jamaica has experienced a number of major floods, which have caused a lot of dislocation and millions of dollars in damage. In 2001, there were two major floods, another two in 2002, one in 2003 and at least three last year with the passage of hurricanes Charlie, Ivan and Jeanne.
“The agency has refined its Disaster Mitigation Management Programme to look at and address the drainage systems outside of those on the right of way, or along the main road network. This programme will address gullies and major drainage systems that we will not normally address under our routine maintenance programme,” Ms. Williams told JIS News.
Continuing, she disclosed that the NWA has submitted a draft of this programme to Cabinet and is awaiting final approval for work to commence.
Meanwhile, work is continuing under the NWA’s drain cleaning and routine maintenance programmes to address flooding and blocked drains across the island. Ms. Williams told JIS News that the agency was currently implementing programmes in all 14 parishes.
“We are in the process of implementing some 33 routine maintenance packages across the island, that’s 33 out of 55. Our routine maintenance programme aims at looking at bushing of the roadways, cleaning of drains – the side drains, the outlets, the curbs – all the channels along the main road network,” she informed.
These programmes, which were started in March this year, should be completed by early July.
The agency is also continuing flood mitigation works in a number of priority areas, or carefully identified areas across the island that are usually susceptible to inundation as a result of heavy showery activity.
In addition, following on the experience of Hurricane Ivan and hurricane seasons in the past, where several major roads were blocked for lengthy periods, the NWA has prepared a mapping of “areas where land slips occur regularly.”
“Responding to the need for critical information about the effects of a hurricane on the network, we launched a landslide/road breakaway mapping exercise to identify and document the overall distributions of landslides and breakaways on the network,” revealed Ms. Williams.
According to the Acting Communications Manager, the mapping exercise utilised ground base field inspections as well as some mapping devices and photographic records. When the data collection in the field was completed, the information was placed into a Global Positioning System (GPS) – a database that was able to link it to the road network – and from that information, a categorisation of the breakaways and landslides was generated.
“We now have an inventory of these land slippages and this information helps us to plan. We can develop programmes to address the issue of landslides, where they usually occur and rehabilitation and maintenance of these locations,” she stated.
By knowing where the landslips and breakaways frequently occur, the NWA is better able to respond and mobilise their equipment in the case of a disaster.
The works agency has also sought to refine its response mechanism by engaging staff members in continuous preparation activities such as training sessions, simulation exercises and drills.