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    Deputy Director-General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Richard Thompson, is assuring that the agency is adequately prepared to initiate up to four weeks of relief assistance islandwide, in the event that the country is affected by a hurricane or tropical storm.
    This assurance comes one month ahead of the start of the 2009 North Atlantic Hurricane season, on June 1.
    Speaking at the official launch of the agency’s observance of May as Hurricane Preparedness Month, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston, on April 30,Mr. Thompson said the level of resources which ODPEM currently has, should enable it to “respond, in terms of relief distribution, in the first three to four weeks, after a system has passed.”
    “After that, we will have to depend on outside help. And it happens all over the world where, after any natural disaster, if your resources are overwhelmed, then you will have to depend on outside help. But we (ODPEM) are currently at the level, where we can carry the country for a period of time (of three to four weeks), until we get assistance from outside donors, and corporate Jamaica,” he informed.
    Mr. Thompson also advised that ODPEM is assisting residents in communities, prone to flooding, to better prepare themselves to deal with any setback and dislocation resulting from the onset of severe weather. He disclosed that, currently, there are several ongoing projects, aimed at making communities “more resilient to disasters.”
    “There is one project that is called ‘Building Disaster-resilient Communities’. That is a project where we are doing a lot of training of individuals islandwide. After the passage of any system, you have to do a reconnaissance to find out which communities have been affected. Getting your relief efforts going will take some time. So, you have to bring these communities up to a level where they can survive on their own for a period of time, until we can start doing the relief drops,” he said.
    “So, there have been a number of sensitisation workshops and training taking place. So, we are getting there, and we will get there (in time) for the start of the hurricane season,” Mr. Thompson assured.
    Meanwhile, Climatologist at the National Meteorological Office, Jeffrey Spooner, reported mixed outlooks by at least two institutions that prepared forecasts for the 2009 North Atlantic Hurricane season – Colorado State University, and the University College of London.
    Mr. Spooner informed that Colorado University’s Tropical Meteorological Project is predicting average activity this year. He said that based on averages calculated for the seasons between 1950 and 2000, the university is forecasting that 12 named storms will be formed, two of which are expected to evolve into intense hurricanes ranging from category three upwards. Six, he added, are expected to become average hurricanes.
    “The reason given is that currently, there is a weak La Ni

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