KINGSTON, Jamaica - Fishers and other residents of Pedro Cays have been ordered to leave the islands, ahead of Tropical Storm Sandy, which is expected to develop into a category one hurricane by Wednesday afternoon.
However, there are those among them who have refused to go, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has said.
“The word from the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard, which does that sort of travelling behind them [as they leave] suggests that a number of them have evacuated,” Director General of ODPEM Ronald Jackson told the Jamaica Observer earlier Tuesday.
He could not say precisely how many people were left on the island, but noted that it was not unusual for people to refuse to leave the cays in inclement weather.
“The JDF advised that they would actually be operating out at sea where they would be operating the vessel. But typically we understand that there are those who would be unwilling to leave the island; it is a perennial problem,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from the JDF was unsuccessful.
At the same time, Jackson said the state would not be responsible for anyone who refused to leave the island.
“The state can’t take responsibility for persons who have been asked to evacuate and they don’t evacuate. It becomes personal responsibility, especially where the coast guard has actually to track and see what is happening. If people refuse to leave, then you have taken on to yourself personal responsibility,” Jackson said.
Pedro Cays — comprised of three tiny islands, two of them occupied by people for up to six months each year — was recently in the news over the poor public health conditions there. The main island — Middle Cay — is without the benefit of proper toilet facilities to serve the hundreds of Jamaicans who rely on it to eke out a living. There is also no running water on the island, which has also been challenged by the pile-up of garbage.
Since the Observer broke news of the conditions there in September, the residents have themselves undertaken some clean-up activities, sorting and burying some of their waste. Meanwhile, government has hatched a plan intended to derail a public health crisis.
The plan includes carrying out a census to determine precisely how many people live on and use the islands, and in particular Middle Cay; and find a solution to the burgeoning solid waste and toilet woes.
Meanwhile, a hurricane warning remains in effect for Jamaica as Sandy nears the island, bringing with it heavy rains and the threat of floods.
“Sandy is moving towards the north-northeast near 9 km/h (6 mph) and this general motion is expected to continue at a faster forward speed Tuesday and Wednesday,’ said a recent bulletin from the Meteorological Service.
“On this forecast track, the centre of Sandy will reach the southern coast of Jamaica — in the vicinity of Clarendon and St Catherine — near midday Wednesday, then across the island, exiting the island, via St Ann, heading towards eastern Cuba by Wednesday evening,” the bulletin added.