$360 million to clear roads after Tropical Storm Ian
Full damage cost to be announced following NWA assessment
A flooded area in Clarendon, following rains associated with Tropical Storm Ian (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

IT is costing the country an estimated $360 million to clear roads that were flooded and blocked by trees and other debris as a result of rains associated with Tropical Storm Ian, which pelted the island between Saturday and Monday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who made the disclosure in a statement to Parliament on Wednesday, said this figure represents very preliminary estimates to "reopen roads and make surfaces driveable".

"It might increase a little bit more, but thankfully it is not in the billions; the cost of permanent repairs are being assessed and over the next two weeks I will update Parliament as to what those will be," he said.

"Certainly, for the repair of retaining walls that have been destroyed those costs might be a little bit more, but, again, we are not expecting to see a billion-dollar bill for repairs," he said in reference to the usually high figure to repair damage resulting from extreme weather conditions in Jamaica.

According to the prime minister, based on the cost outlined, it is not expected that there will be any significant new budget allocations for the repairs. "So the National Works Agency [NWA] would have to look in its budget to see how these repairs can be addressed," he said.

In the meantime, Holness said the NWA has reported that parishes hardest hit were St Catherine and Clarendon, however, Kingston and St Andrew, St Elizabeth, Westmoreland, Trelawny, and Portland were also significantly impacted by the system.

Many areas were flooded while others experienced landslides, fallen trees, and scoured road surfaces, while the rains left some communities marooned, especially those in low-lying and flood-prone areas along the southern coast.

Holness said that in the aftermath of the flood rain, the NWA mobilised equipment and personnel to clear blocked roads and restore access to communities. He said the agency is now undertaking a rapid assessment to determine the full extent of the impact of the rains as well as to enable the determination for additional remedial measures.

"Primary consideration has been given to those corridors along which first responders, such as the Jamaica Public Service, National Water Commission [NWC], and Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management [ODPEM], would be required to use. So those areas have been cleared, and in clearing these areas, this would include the clearing of debris and other materials that would've washed on the roads and any landslides," the prime minister said.

Holness noted that the NWA's initial assessment is that approximately 47 roads in the parishes of St Catherine and Clarendon were badly affected by landslides, mud flows, downed trees, or inundation, which rendered some communities inaccessible.

"As of now, the floodwaters have receded and communities which were previously inaccessible, their access would've been restored," the prime minister said.

He said all roads have been reopened with the exception of the corridors in Clarendon from Chapelton to Rock River in the north; Macknie to Douglas Castle; St John's to Pedro River and Thatch Walk Bridge in Aenon Town. The Alley Road in southern Clarendon was damaged due to the Rio Minho overflowing and scouring a small section of the northern approach to the bridge. Access to this roadway has been restored.

Of note, Holness said, the road from Lower Chapelton to Rock River suffered a breakaway in the community of Sutton and this section of road will have to be rebuilt in order for it to be reopened.

"So this road would be one of the significant areas of damage which will last for a little while until we have repaired it," the prime minister said.

Further, Holness said, following directives to the NWA, several other locations within the parish of Clarendon are now accessible. These include Kemps Hill; Kupuis to Colonel's Ridge; Trout Hall and Denbigh to Manchester Avenue.

He also said the Bog Walk Gorge has been reopened, explaining that the road was closed before the heavy rainfall was experienced on Monday, following consultation among key disaster management agencies.

In addition, for roadways and retaining walls that have been damaged, designs are now being done for the repairs as required.

Meanwhile, Holness said the NWA is continuing with the cleaning and clearing of roads across the country.

"Not only would we be responsible for the roads that have been scoured and the retaining walls that have been destroyed, but there is significant debris that is on some roads which make them not impassible but difficult to drive on, so sand and gravel sometimes would have accumulated, trees would've fallen…and a significant volume of municipal waste — plastic bottles and all kinds of waste — have accumulated on some of our roads, so the NWC is doing that cleaning and clearing," he said, adding that the NWA is also cleaning critical drains in the aftermath of the storm.

The rain associated with Tropical Storm Ian, now Hurricane Ian, started affecting the island on Friday. Despite the heavy lashing, Jamaica only experienced the outer bands of the storm and there was no reported loss of life resulting from the passage of the system. After passing Jamaica, Ian strengthened into a hurricane and hit western Cuba and made landfall in Florida, United States as a strong Category 4 hurricane.

BY ALECIA SMITH Senior staff reporter smitha@jamaicaobserver.com

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