BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment email@example.com
DIRECTOR General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Ronald Jackson says Jamaica is not only challenged by the traditional climate related risks but also a number of man-made hazards.
Jackson, who pointed to a recent World Bank survey, which ranked Jamaica as the third most (natural) hazardous place in the world, noted the dangers posed by Monday's incident in which an oil tanker spilled more than 2,000 litres of gas on Port Royal Street in downtown Kingston and the noxious fumes along the Portmore leg of Highway 2000 on June 28, which sent at least 10 toll workers to seek medical care and the corridor shutting down for most of the day.
The tanker overturned while negotiating a corner on Port Royal Street in downtown Kingston about 6:00 pm Monday, spilling petrol in very close proximity to the sea.
"In terms of what (amount of petrol) it was carrying that amount (2,000 litres) may seem insignificant, but given the fact that there are other spin-off issues it was significant," Jackson told Tuesday's luncheon meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Kingston at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel.
He said the fire service and police responded quickly and immediately asked ODPEM to get a truckload of sand to soak up the oil. "That said, it is a coastal road and so some of the product did get into the near seashore and we had to look at how we could contain that overnight," Jackson said.
Additional foam, he said, was requested from the Airports Authority of Jamaica to ensure that a major explosion did not occur when the trailer was being righted.
The emergency operation, said the ODPEM boss, was "challenged" by the garbage in the nearby drains which hindered the method used to soak up the oil.
Said Jackson: "There were challenges because garbage was in the drain and that is one of the reasons why we are saying... that we have to arrest the waste management problem because a lot of drainage ways designed to carry water is now blocked with other things."
The National Environmental Planning Agency (NEPA), he said, subsequently reported that there has been some amount of fish kill. However, Jackson said it was difficult to avoid that happening, although the teams were successful in minimising the amount of oil which got in the sea. NEPA, he said, would be continuing its assessment to determine the effects of the incident on the natural environment.
In the meantime, Jackson said an investigation would be launched into the cause of the accident, and announced that the findings of the cause of noxious fumes along the Portmore leg of Highway 2000 should be known by Friday.
"We know that large trucks carry material along that corridor and sometimes if it is not properly covered or loaded you are seeing sand along that corner and that could have also been a contributing factor," he said.
Meanwhile, the ODPEM boss said the agency would be convening a review of that Monday's incident as well as the noxious fumes along Highway 2000 to examine how both incidents were handled.