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KSAMC discuss legality of mandatory hurricane evacuation

BY CLAUDIENNE EDWARDS
Observer writer
edwardsc@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, September 23, 2017

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MAYOR of Kingston Senator Delroy Williams says attorneys at the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) have been asked to look into the legality of mandatory evacuations during emergencies such as a Category Five hurricane.

With some Caribbean islands currently reeling from the effects of two Category Five hurricanes over the past two weeks, councillors attending the Parish Disaster Preparedness and Public Health Committee meeting on Thursday questioned whether the KSAMC had an effective plan for mandatory evacuation of people from depressed communities in the case of a similar local disaster.

People's National Party (PNP) Councillor Norman Perry of the Duhaney Park division said that in Calalloo Mews — a depressed community in his division — a Category Five hurricane would be a calamity. He said that trying to evacuate people in such an emergency would not be easy.

“Our people are stubborn,” Perry said.

Dennis Gordon, PNP councillor for the Maxfield Park division, said he was concerned that if there was no effective plan to evacuate individuals from depressed communities under threat, it could lead to disaster.

The mayor, Senator Williams said: “Personally, I support mandatory evacuation.”

He said that the KSAMC, as a council, could specify areas where there should be no housing developments and follow through by not approving building applications for developments in such areas. However, he said that there should be no mandatory evacuation for areas where approval had been given for development.

At Thursday's meeting, councillors also discussed that there are no provisions in the Disaster Risk Management Act, 2015 for mandatory evacuation, and that a regulation would have to be added to the Act to legalise it.

In the meantime, as it relates to the readiness of the municipality for a hurricane, the mayor said that preparations are taking place in case there is such an event.

A number of meetings had been held and plans prepared for the likely areas of devastation. Plans for shelters, food supplies, and the prepositioning of equipment in the event of a direct hit have been prepared, he said.

Meanwhile, Venesha Phillips, PNP councillor for the Papine division, told the mayor that police presence was necessary in shelters.

She said that criminal elements were often in shelters and that the lack of security was why some people were reluctant to use such facilities.

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