JIS News

The need for building regulations to be enforced and for the monitoring of land use to reduce hazards in the event of a natural disaster, were highlighted at a special Disaster Preparedness and Public Health Committee meeting held recently at the Portmore Municipality office in St. Catherine.
Regional Coordinator for the Eastern Region at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Omar Afflick said that any disaster plan by the Council must focus on the hazards that were likely to occur and areas that were high risk in Portmore. He said, too, that the Council needed to monitor physical and urban developments in the municipality and to ensure that builders adhered to the building codes.
According to Mr. Afflick, the municipality must create linkages with entities such as the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), the fire department, the police, health centres, and civic groups, which could all assist in the preparedness and response plan.
He said that secondary hazards of earthquakes, such as the collapsing of buildings and bridges, were extremely likely in the Portmore area, because of the number of concrete structures and a few high-rise buildings. “All these engineered structures can fail during an earthquake,” he pointed out.
Other concerns, he noted, were the seepage of gasoline from petrol stations with underground tanks.
In his remarks, Mayor of Portmore George Lee said the meeting was one in a series planned by the municipality to discuss disaster preparedness. He noted that there had been an increase in natural disasters worldwide, and the recent Tsunami in South Asia “has forcefully brought home what can happen in this part of the world.”
“It is therefore clear that we need to re-look at the Portmore disaster plan, develop our local response and continue to make disaster preparedness a centrepiece of all that we do,” he stated. He noted that Portmore was “very vulnerable” as the community faced a number of challenges such as illegal building operations and squatting.
“We firmly believe that we must find places for people to live, but it must be done in an organized way. Government must find appropriate land and remove the squatters. Right in Rodney’s Arms, for instance, you have large-scale squatting and the government ministries that own those lands must take steps to remove them (the squatters). I’m really very disappointed and distressed at the squatting,” the Mayor bemoaned.

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