KINGSTON — Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, says Jamaica and its partners are on standby to provide emergency assistance in the event that Hurricane Irene impacts the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas.
According to the National Hurricane Centre, the weather system could reach Turks and Caicos by this afternoon, as a Category Two or Three hurricane. It is forecasted that the core of Irene will move near or over the Turks and Caicos Islands, near or over the southeastern and central Bahamas tonight and tomorrow, and near or over the northwestern Bahamas on Thursday August 25.
Mr. Jackson said ODPEM has been assessing and carefully watching the system, in order to provide assistance where necessary.
“We have been preparing our partners here who will be called on to provide ODPEM with co-ordinating support to move resources, human or otherwise, to these affected countries, should they require it,” he told JIS News.
He informed that his office has had dialogue with the relevant authorities in the Turks and Caicos and has been made aware that the country has access to adequate material resources.
“What they may need is for the deployment of Assessment Teams and so we're putting those persons on standby,” he said.
“We’ve also received feedback from the Bahamas, which also has adequate resources, but nonetheless we’ve identified resources from what we call the Sub-regional Warehouse in the event that they need material resources,” Mr. Jackson informed.
He said ODPEM has also put measures in place to deploy Assessment Teams to support the aftermath in the Bahamas. “The assessment teams will be asked to quickly assess the damage, identify the needs and begin the process of assisting their early recovery,” he said.
“We’ve also had dialogue with our contact within the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and they are going to be having initial discussions internally to ensure that they themselves are ready,” he noted.
He said that if necessary, members of the JDF would be deployed as part of the Caribbean Disaster Relief Unit, which is a military deployment drawn from a number of islands in the Caribbean. The special team, he said, would likely be channeled through Jamaica and would provide additional, specialised support to the impacted states.
Mr. Jackson said while the organisation and its partners are on standby and ready to act, the complete emergency and relief needs would become clearer after the passage of Irene.
“The situation is going to be dynamic, so we can only plan based on the scenarios we are examining. We have identified the sub-regional warehouse resources, which we currently hold here in Jamaica and we would be deploying that as necessary, as well as any other support that may be required,” he said.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter