Environment

Mitigation projects may have helped saved millions in Hurricane Sandy — ODPEM

Luke Douglas

Wednesday, October 31, 2012    

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IN the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has pointed to a number of disaster mitigation projects which it says may have prevented the loss of millions of dollars in property and may even have saved lives.

The projects, which involved simple practices, such as mangrove replanting, shelter retrofitting and building foot bridges, are being introduced to other vulnerable communities across the island, subject to the availability of resources to ODPEM.

“From all indications, the communities did very well,” said the agency’s senior director of mitigation, planning and research, Karema Aikens-Mitchell.

She was speaking of communities which benefitted from the Building Disaster Resilient Communities Project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) with a contribution of $43 million.

Under the project, 28 communities were targeted for micro-disaster risk reduction projects, including mangrove replanting, shelter retrofitting, and the building of foot bridges.

The result is that many communities were better able to withstand the ravages of Sandy.

The evaluation after the hurricane of Kellits in Clarendon, for example, which benefitted from retrofitting of roofs, is very good.

“We have not had any reports from that community of damage,” said Aikens-Mitchell.

In Old Harbour Bay, St Catherine, more than 100 people were evacuated to shelters in the area based on the training they received.

“They knew exactly where they shelters were. There is evidence that they heeded the warnings,” said Aikens-Mitchell.

Another micro project funded with US$2.3 million by the World Bank, among other things, seeks to teach people to channel their bath water into drains to prevent landslides. This project is being implemented in four communities — Harbour Heights, Melbrook Heights and Bedward Gardens in St Andrew and Breastworks in Portland.

Aikens-Mitchell also noted a detailed method adopted from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the United States, for the protection of coastal towns, which was being implemented in Annotto Bay, St Mary.

“The findings are very interesting. They will be published next month,” she said.

A year ago, ODPEM identified 310 out of 900 communities islandwide that were at risk of disasters. It is now in the process of implementing mitigation projects in several of these communities.

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