Government allocates $10m in emergency funding after heavy flooding

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

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The Government yesterday said it has approved $10 million in emergency funding to help clear public thoroughfare in the aftermath of heavy rain that triggered flooding and landslides in Portland, St Ann, St Mary, and Trelawny over the weekend.

“I have directed that funds are to be immediately released to clear roads blocked by land slippages and any other debris that have made them impassable, and to implement any emergency roadworks as are necessary,” Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie said in a statement.

“Accordingly, $3 million will be allocated to each municipal corporation of the two worst-affected parishes, while the local authorities of the other two less-affected parishes will receive $2 million each. We want to minimise the trauma and disruption to our citizens and ensure that they can get back to work and to school as quickly as possible,” McKenzie added.

He said he has also given approval for municipal corporations to use their special grant for repairs to take care of emergencies in their jurisdictions as necessary.

“These are all critical interim actions that we are taking now. We will await the damage assessment reports of the chief engineering officers of the affected municipal corporations, and thereafter develop a comprehensive road repair and rehabilitation programme,” McKenzie said.

Reports of heavy property damage, flooding, loss of livestock and crops were received up to yesterday as the Meteorological Service explained that the heavy rain resulted from a trough across Jamaica and the western Caribbean.

The Met Service downgraded a flash flood warning for low-lying and flood-prone areas of Trelawny, St Ann, St Mary, and Portland and issued a flash flood watch for all parishes until 5:00 am today.

Yesterday, Portland Western Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz described the situation in his constituency and the wider parish as “severe devastation”.

“We have a number of communities that are marooned, either because of the height of the water or because of landslides and roadblocks. Not to mention that all the rivers are in spate,” Vaz said in a voice note released on WhatsApp.

He said that the overflowing of the riverbanks has resulted in flooding, destruction of farming communities and produce, and loss of livestock.

“It is definitively a very bad start to 2018 for the people of Portland and the other parishes that have been affected, and the estimates, which I expect after the assessments that started today, will run into hundreds of millions of dollars in relation to infrastructure damage,” Vaz said.

“Thankfully, there have been no reports to date of loss of lives, but a number of structures on the river sides, which have been eroded, are in danger of falling into the rivers,” he said.

Yesterday, the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) said that the continued heavy rains and flooding has resulted in several customers in northern and eastern Jamaica being out of power.

“In St Mary, the affected areas include Enfield district, Mount Vernon, Castleton, Claremount Pen, Three Hills, Marlborough, Labyrinth, Retire, Roadside, and Chocolate Walk.

“In St Ann, customers in the Market Street area and areas leading off have been affected as land slippages have left Market Street inaccessible, preventing equipment repairs in the area,” the light and power company said in a news release.

“In Portland, customers in the Boston district are out of power due to two broken poles. Other customers in the parish in the communities of Windsor Forrest, Barracks district, and Shot Over are also experiencing outages,” JPS added.

It said its response teams are making every effort to restore power in the affected areas, but issues of access to areas, and continued rainfall have impacted the rate at which restoration can take place.

“Crews will, however, be working to restore power as quickly and as safely as possible.

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