A meeting of the National Disaster Committee which comprises all the relevant agencies was convened this afternoon as the nation prepares for the threat posed by Tropical Storm Sandy.
Jamaica is now under a tropical storm warning as Tropical Storm Sandy approaches the island. By later this afternoon into tonight, the country will begin to experience deterioration in the weather conditions.
On its current path, the centre of the storm is expected to pass across the central section of the island with landfall expected in the Clarendon, St. Catherine region. Low lying areas and the parishes of St. Thomas, Portland, St. Catherine (including Portmore) and the Kingston Metropolitan Region will feel the brunt of the system. Nonetheless, given the broad expanse of the storm the entire island will experience at a minimum tropical storm conditions and sections may even experience hurricane type conditions.
The Metereological Service has indicated that the conditions are favourable for the strengthening of the system which could become a Category 1 Hurricane by the time it reaches Jamaica early on Wednesday.
To allow for adequate preparation, all Government offices and schools were closed at 2 p.m. today and private companies are being encouraged to release their staff early this afternoon.
The Minister of National Security will be issuing curfew orders for selected areas effective 6 p.m. today and these will remain in effect until Thursday morning. Only emergency personnel will be allowed movement during the period of the curfew.
The Norman Manley International Airport will close at 6 o'clock tomorrow morning and the Sangster International Airport at 8. The Kingston Transhipment Port will be closed at 4.00 p.m. today.
Both the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, ODPEM, and the National Works Agency have been fully mobilized, and emergency equipment and supplies have been prepositioned in strategic locations islandwide. Later today, the ODPEM will release a list of priority shelters and the communities to be evacuated.
The Government has also taken a decision to make arrangements for salaries and pensions to be paid a day earlier to facilitate government workers and pensioners ability to purchase goods and services to meet any emergency.
The Constituency Development Fund Office has been authorized an expenditure of J$300,000.00 per Member of Parliament to assist with emergency relief efforts.
Finally, I am appealing to all Jamaicans to follow the advisories of the MET office, and the instructions and warnings of the ODPEM and the Security Forces. All Jamaicans must take the threat of this storm seriously, and make all the necessary preparations for their personal safety and remember to look out for your neighbor and the vulnerable, especially the disabled, elderly and our children.