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Don't drop your guard, ODPEM warns Jamaicans

BY KIMMO MATTHEWS Observer staff reporter matthewsk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, August 27, 2012    

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JAMAICA may have been spared the full wrath of Tropical Storm Isaac but the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency (ODPEM) has warned citizens against letting their guard down.

"Remain vigilant we are still into the hurricane season, we are actually moving into the peak of the hurricane season," ODPEM Director General Ronald Jackson told the Jamaica Observer yesterday as he warned that several systems were still expected to move towards the island.

Jackson made the call while also pointing out that ODPEM was still concerned that a large section of the society had adopted a nonchalant type of attitude to warnings issued by the organisation.

Jackson said that inspite of some Jamaicans still not taking things seriously, the ODPEM was encouraged by the "marked improvement" it had seen in the level of preparations being made by Jamaicans.

"The number of persons calling in for information and those who constantly check to see what was happening and what they needed to do is increasing. They want to figure out how they needed to treat with plans that they had in place. The people are paying attention," the ODPEM head said.

Jackson believes that the increase in awareness had to do with the education campaign of the ODPEM and other agencies.

"Our public education campaign, and our work directly with communities but also the experiences of the past are still fresh in the minds of many Jamaicans," Jackson said.

As heavy rains associated with Tropical Storm Isaac lashed sections of the island yesterday ODPEM said that it had received reports of flooding in the Bog Walk Gorge, St Catherine, and New Haven in St Andrew.

"The reports were, however, nothing that led to people being marooned or displaced ... nothing of the sort," Jackson said.

The Jamaica Government yesterday lifted the Tropical Storm Watch associated with Isaac as the US National Hurricane Center reported that the weather condition moved towards the Florida Keys.

The weather system left seven people dead in the impoverished Caribbean country of Haiti, and two in the adjoining Dominican Republic.

More that 4,000 people in the northern Caribbean remained in emergency shelters.

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