'This is no joke!' - McKenzie urges serious response to Matthew
"This is not a joking matter!" That was the warning from Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie as he urged residents to prepare for the passage of Matthew, a powerful category four hurricane (at press time) barrelling through the central Caribbean Sea towards Jamaica.
A hurricane watch was issued yesterday, meaning that Jamaica would, in 48 hours, experience "dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves, even though winds expected may be less than hurricane force".
The forecast at press time last night said the centre of Hurricane Matthew was located near 445 miles south-east of Morant Point and would remain over the south-central Caribbean Sea today before turning towards Jamaica's territorial waters tomorrow morning.
Matthew was moving near nine miles per hour with hurricane-force winds extending up to 35 miles from the centre and tropical storm-force winds up to 195 miles.
McKenzie said yesterday that the Government, under the instruction of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, was going "full speed" with preparedness and response efforts, and insisted that citizens must do their part.
"There is still a wide cross section of Jamaicans who don't believe that this system is coming. So it means that persons continue to practise the same thing that they normally do when hurricanes are pending," he told journalists yesterday after meeting with faith-based groups and key emergency agencies.
"This is not something that people should take for a joke. We are putting in place all the necessary arrangements so that we can respond to the needs. This is a national crisis, and it is a national response that the Government is giving. There is no room for any mischief to be made as we face one of the most severe natural disasters in quite a long while."
Congested streets and long lines at shops and supermarkets across the Corporate Area yesterday gave an indication that some citizens may be heeding the warnings to stock up on essential supplies.
Meanwhile, efforts were being made to locate all of the estimated 2,000 street people across the island and place them in shelters, which will all open tomorrow.
The Jamaica Urban Transit Company is on standby to help with evacuation, especially of residents of southern Clarendon, McKenzie said.
The National Solid Waste Management Authority has been authorised to get new trucks as it will be working 24 hours every day to remove garbage across the country.
Members of Parliament, meanwhile, have been advanced $1 million each to help with response efforts.