Life returns to normal in Jamaica; schools to reopen today

Life returns to normal in Jamaica; schools to reopen today

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

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LIFE started returning to normal in Jamaica yesterday after the National Meteorological Service declared that the island was no longer under threat of Hurricane Matthew and lifted the tropical storm warning that was in effect.

Schools, which were closed for two days because of the threat from the hurricane, are expected to reopen today, with the exception of three which were used as hurricane shelters. The three — Mandeville Primary and Junior High, Manchioneal and Annotto Bay primary schools — were up to yesterday still housing evacuees. However, the education ministry said it was working with parish coordinators to explore the possibility of having them relocated to community centres while they complete repairs to their homes.

Jamaicans were asked to remain indoors on Monday because of the threat posed by Matthew.

"We are happy to know that the threat of Hurricane Matthew has been entirely removed from the island. We are no longer facing any expectation of tropical storm conditions for the country. We have moved outside of the range of tropical storm force winds that extend over 100 kilometres from the centre of Hurricane Matthew," said Evan Thompson, head of the Met Service, during a press conference at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) on Haining Road in Kingston, yesterday.

At the same time, he said the hurricane, which remains a very powerful and catastrophic system, was moving towards the north and it was likely that there could be rainfall over sections of island as result of daytime heating and instability caused by the hurricane.

In addition, Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie said the Government will now remove all levels of preparedness that were put in place over the past few days.

McKenzie reported that the Jamaica Urban Transit Company had resumed limited operations and was expected to roll out more buses throughout the day.

He said, too, that Government ministries and agencies would be reactivated yesterday, and by today all should be back in full operation, while the business community was encouraged to resume commercial activities.

The minister extended appreciation and commendation to the Met Office and the ODPEM for the job that they did, and gave thanks to God for sparing Jamaica from the wrath of Hurricane Matthew. "By now I think as a nation we should be extremely grateful for the mercies that have been extended to us following the advent of Hurricane Matthew," he said.

"The Government is very grateful and has all reasons to be grateful because we believe that anything major or small would have disrupted the course of the Government’s economic recovery programme," McKenzie said.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, meanwhile, expressed profound gratitude to disaster preparedness officials and all Jamaicans for the level of preparation and response as the country braced for a possible impact from Hurricane Matthew.

"… Government ministries, agencies, private sector, the church and other volunteer groups worked tirelessly to prepare the country for an impending disaster.

"I am pleased by the level of commitment, preparation and communication by all those involved. I want to thank everyone for answering the call to duty," said Holness.

He said, however, that even though Jamaica was not seriously impacted by Hurricane Matthew, the neighbouring islands of Haiti, Cuba and The Bahamas are now under severe threat. "We pray for our Caribbean neighbours and hope that they will make a speedy recovery. We stand ready to assist in whatever way we can, especially Haiti, which is currently experiencing the brunt of the storm."

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