Minister with responsibility for Information, Telecommunications and Special Projects, Hon Daryl Vaz, has warned Jamaicans against letting down their guard in the future, after being spared the full onslaught of Hurricane Tomas Friday (November 5).
“To those who might have felt that all they did was in vain, I would say to those skeptics, it is better to be safe than sorry,” he told a press conference at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Friday.
He emphasised that threats of storms or hurricanes must be taken seriously, and commended the various emergency response agencies, saying this was the “best prepared” the country has been, in terms of being proactive in protecting lives and property.
ODPEM began phasing down its Emergency Operation Centre, following the lifting of Tropical Storm Warnings by the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, at 11 a.m. Friday.
Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, Ronald Jackson, and Director of Emergency Disaster Management and Special Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Marion Bullock DuCasse, consult during a press conference at ODPEM’s office in the aftermath of Hurricane Tomas, Friday (November 5).
Director General of ODPEM, Ronald Jackson, said the agency would carry out a final assessment of the shelters which are still open.
ODPEM reported that up to 106 persons in six parishes had reported to shelters, 53 of them from Kingston and St. Andrew. Mr. Jackson predicted that most persons would be returning home Friday, with the exception of a shelter in Llandewey, St. Thomas where they are waiting on the rivers to recede. He anticipated that the buildings being used as shelters could be returned to the churches and schools, by the end of the day.
He said he had not received any adverse reports regarding damage to homes or public infrastructure, except for a report of roof damage to one house in Winchester, St. Thomas.
Mr. Jackson said ODPEM is encouraged by the response of persons to calls for evacuation. He said that residents in vulnerable communities have become more receptive to calls to evacuate to emergency shelters.
“We’ve been able to look at the issue of security as part and parcel of our readiness. That is creating a greater confidence level. We intend to build on that, and to look at how we can enhance security arrangements around communities that are to be evacuated, and shelters that are being evacuated,” he added.
Mr. Jackson said ODPEM was now focused on replenishing its stocks as quickly as possible, and on ensuring readiness for the rest of the hurricane season.