Tsunami early warning system for Port Maria
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie

THE flood-prone town of Port Maria in St Mary will now benefit from a tsunami early warning system, with the Government's allocation of $17 million for its installation.

This was disclosed by Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie during his contribution to the 2023/24 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

McKenzie noted that in his last sectoral presentation, he had informed that the town, which was almost submerged after very heavy rains in January 2022 and significantly impacted over 800 households and businesses, would be next in line for the warning system, following installation of one in Old Harbour Bay in St Catherine.

"This system is a vital complement to the Community Flood Alert Systems Improvement Project. As the name suggests, a flood alert system is a mechanism developed to inform people in flood-prone areas that flooding is possible or imminent. When a threat occurs, the system will also give an alarm so that preventive action can be taken," he said.

He said that in addition to the siren that would be triggered when waters exceed a prescribed level, the system will produce data that will ultimately help to produce a flood prediction model.

The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) will collaborate with the National Works Agency (NWA), the Meteorological Service of Jamaica (MET Office), and the Water Resources Authority of Jamaica to implement the system, the local government minister further noted.

In the meantime, McKenzie pointed out that the final phase of the project to install flood alert systems at Benson Ford in St Andrew as well as Aenon Town and Alley in Clarendon is to be completed to coincide with the start of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, today.

He said the final phase of this project involves the installation of remote flood monitoring and automation systems.

McKenzie noted that the first phase involved the erection of public education and flood warning signs. In addition, community flood gauges, which show the movement of water levels and stages of danger, were installed at Thatchwalk Bridge in Aenon Town and Alley Bridge and traffic control gates are also being built at Alley Bridge.

"Through the use of sensors that will be attached to the bridges, a real-time remote flood monitoring system will collect data and transmit text messages and e-mail to all stakeholders so they can make informed and rapid decisions. This real-time alert system will also feature horns and lights so that people in these vulnerable areas can hear and see that danger is at hand," McKenzie said.

The local government minister said ODPEM's capacity to provide relief supplies will be expanded with the allocation of an additional $17 million and that work is also being done at the emergency facilities where the supplies are stored.

"This year, an additional $10 million will be spent to rehabilitate the emergency storage facilities in the ODPEM's eastern and western regions. Overall, an additional $50 million has been allocated to this critical institution to ensure total readiness for natural and man-made disasters, including the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season," he said.

BY ALECIA SMITH Senior staff reporter smitha@jamaicaobserver.com

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