Gov't prepared to enforce mandatory evacuation, says McKenzie

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 13, 2019

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FALMOUTH, Trelawny — Desmond McKenzie says the Government is prepared to enforce mandatory evacuation in instances where Jamaicans are refusing to leave vulnerable communities in the face of approaching tropical cyclones.

McKenzie, who was addressing yesterday's monthly meeting of the Trelawny Municipal Corporation, said the State had the option under the Disaster Risk Management Act.

“In this country, 98 per cent of our capital towns are landlocked. There are only three parishes in Jamaica where the capital don't sit beside the sea. We have to, as a country, start to examine how we treat disasters, and I am saying this today that we are prepared now to use the provisions under the Disaster Risk Law that speaks to compulsory evacuation of communities across the country,” McKenzie, the minister of local government and community development, said.

“For too long we have seen [people in] communities that are prone to flooding refuse to heed the call [to evacuate]. You can replace your house and your car, you can't replace lives,” he said.

“We are prepared to throw the book at those persons who will not accede to the request to relocate if the need arises,” he insisted.

He said that on Monday he will be convening a meeting with the National Disaster Committee “to look at where we are as a country and how we are going to respond in case we are affected by any disaster”.

“I remember when we did what we did during (Hurricane) Matthew we were severely criticised for being over excessive. We can't criticise a Government for being proactive when it comes on to disaster. It is better that you do it than don't do it none at all. And we are not going to wait to see if it is going to happen. I am therefore putting all the municipalities on notice to activate their disaster response mechanisms to ensure that we have all the things that are necessary to be in place,” McKenzie said.

He also urged all mayors to pay special attention to people who are vulnerable, especially the physically challenged.

“Put them on a list of priority so that we can identify them if the time comes for them to be relocated,” McKenzie said.

“We have to look at what happened in The Bahamas and tek sleep and mark death,” he said in reference to the devastation unleashed on two islands in The Bahamas Abaco and Grand Bahama by category 5 Hurricane Dorian a week ago.

The local government minister stressed the need for the dissemination of information “in areas where it is necessary to speak to residents about problems if there is a disaster”.

He also said that the Government will provide funding for all municipalities for this programme. “The Social Development Commission will become involved in this programme because they have a network that is critical to supplement the work of the municipal corporation to go into these communities,” McKenzie stated.

He also announced that funding will be made available in two phases to all divisions across the country for drain cleaning.


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