Portland was one of the parishes worst affected by the passage of Tropical Storm Gustav in August 2008, with the residents of Black Rock, Comfort Castle, Fairy Hill, Forte, Grange Hill, Happy Grove, Hectors River, Islington, Kensington, Long Road, Manchioniel and Windsor Forrest and others counting their losses after the storm had departed.
But help was on the way. Some 320 of the 700 Portland householders who indicated a need for assistance to refurbish their damaged units under the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management’s (ODPEM) Hurricane Gustav Recovery Programme’s Safe House Project, sponsored by the United Kingdom- based Department for International Development (DFID), were chosen for help.
Residents of Boston, world renowned for its barbeque sauce that flavours pork, fish and chicken, and whose jerk festival draws large crowds, were not spared the wrath of Gustav, which also roughed up sections of the island, including St. Thomas, Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Mary and Portland. The worst affected persons in these areas became beneficiaries of the ODPEM’s Safe House Project, which is currently retrofitting the roofs of some 1,500 houses islandwide, to make them less susceptible to the ravages of heavy winds, storms and hurricanes.
One affected person was Miss Carlene Brown, a fisherwoman of Boston in Portland, who spoke to JIS News recently. “ODPEM helped me by replacing my whole roof which I lost in Gustav. They also provided us with labour to do the work,” she outlined.
The work on her house entailed the replacement of zinc and laths and rafters and the addition of hurricane straps to secure the rafters on the roof to the wall plates on the structure below.
Mrs. Iva Brown, Carlene’s mother, who lives in a separate house on the family property, is also grateful for the work of the ODPEM.
“Boy, the breeze from Tropical Storm Gustav caused my roof to develop leaks, but I lost only one sheet of zinc. The workers came and fixed my roof,” she said.
“A lady from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security came and spoke to us after Gustav and promised us some help. Later on the people from ODPEM came and helped us. The people from ODPEM are really good. We also got help with labour from family members,” she added.
Workmen reroofing a house in Windsor Forrest, Portland, under the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development’s Tropical Storm Gustav Programme Safe Roof Project.
In the community of Black Rock, the Wynter family consisting of father Eion, mother Kerry-Ann and their son Leon are able to sleep sounder after the retrofitting work was done on their roof. The work included the replacement of zinc sheets and rafters and the addition of hurricane straps to secure the roof from the updraft effects of strong winds.
“I am proud of this,” Eion said with a wide smile, while holding his son and embracing his wife. “We are quite grateful to the ODPEM,” he added.
Travelling in an easterly direction from Black Rock to Windsor Forrest along the coast of Portland, it was observed that ordinary Jamaicans were helping their neighbours to repair their houses. One such person is Edward Morrison, one of the carpenters we saw working on a house in Windsor Forrest. He was assisting although his own dwelling was not damaged in the deluge which accompanied Gustav.
“I just love to do construction work and to help people,” he told JIS News. “I have just volunteered to help fix this roof; I don’t even know the name of the owner of the house,” he said.
This was confirmed by ODPEM’s Project Officer for the Safe House Project, Mr. Kirk Frankson. “The people in the area and in other places we visit come out to help each other,” he noted.
Mr. Roy Stevens, a carpenter for 24 years, who was supervising the work on the house, said he was giving assistance in expectation that others would come to help him when it was time to fix his own damaged house. “I have been helping to fix roofs in Portland under the Programme since June,” he said.
Gustav made landfall in Eastern Jamaica on August 28. According to the ODPEM, 72 communities and 4,000 individuals were directly affected, while 12 deaths were reported. Four hundred houses were destroyed and 1,500 others were severely damaged. ODPEM has estimated the damage, “based on multi-sector damage and needs assessments,” at $15 billion. Some $12.5 billion of damage, they said, was done to infrastructure and $2.5 billion to agriculture, housing, schools and public buildings.
According to ODPEM’s Director General, Ronald Jackson, the recovery efforts for the worst affected communities have focussed on assistance to the families of the 400 destroyed houses. He told JIS News that the Ministry of Water and Housing is leading efforts to relocate these families, where necessary, to safer locations.
The rehabilitation of the other 1,500 damaged houses is being done with the intervention of the ODPEM and DFID. The damage sustained by these families range from total loss of roofing or major roofing damage to significant damage of outer walls. Much of this damage, according to ODPEM, resulted from the use of poor materials, incorrect fastenings or inadequate maintenance. The damage caused is consistent with informal building or self build patterns found in low income communities throughout Jamaica.
According to the Head of ODPEM, the purpose of the project is to assist the recovery of the 1,500 families severely affected by Gustav and to prepare for, and mitigate against, the effects of future natural hazards on low income and self help housing sectors in Jamaica. ODPEM is operating this project in partnership with the Jamaica Red Cross and the Women’s Resource Outreach Centre.