Mon | Oct 22, 2018

Nightmare - ODPEM alarmed over traffic build-up on Palisadoes, plans high-level meeting

Published:Wednesday | January 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott
Parties on the Palisadoes Road strip on New Year's Eve and again on Monday, New Year's Day, brought traffic to a standstill for hours on both days. On Monday, the situation caused chaos at the Norman Manley Internatioinal Airport. This photograph shows bumper-to-bumper traffic because of the New Year's Eve party.

The potential injury to Jamaica's tourism reputation and echoing howls from an outraged public have sent several heads of agencies scampering for a comeback as pressure was being brought to bear from all quarters for persons to be held accountable for Monday's nightmarish gridlock on the Palisadoes Road, the gateway to the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA).

Chaos reigned on Monday night into Tuesday morning after unruly patrons attending the Sandz New Year's Day party caused a traffic gridlock, impeding the free flow of traffic to and from the NMIA.

In the aftermath, concerns are being expressed in several quarters about the potential hazard such a situation created for the capital's single international airport, also fuelling fears at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and for the police of a huge fallout if there had been a major emergency at the airport.

 

BREAKDOWN IN LAW AND ORDER

 

ODPEM boss Major Clive Davis told The Gleaner that he was alarmed at what had transpired over the more than six-hour period of a breakdown in law and order.

Davis disclosed that he would be bringing the matter to the level of the National Disaster Council, adamant that there should never be a repeat of Monday night's blunder.

"If there were to be an incident at the airport, or especially one near to the airport, for example, an aircraft overshooting the airstrip and requiring the fire brigade and other response agencies, then there would be a serious problem. It should not be tolerated at all," said Davis, while admitting that the ODPEM Act does not empower the agency to intervene in a police probe now under way.

"What happened is unacceptable in my mind," Davis further charged. He disclosed that the ODPEM would be engaging a number of stakeholders, including the Police High Command, with a view to addressing public concerns about the hazard created by parities along the stretch.

He noted that permits would have been issued by the police and the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation to the promoters of the event for it to be held.

The Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation said that it regrets the inconvenience caused it would not be issuing any further amusement licence for events along the Palisadoes Road in the short term. It said it would be meeting with all the relevant ministries and agencies to determine a medium- to long-term position.

Police embarrassed, says Quallo

Head of the police Traffic Division Calvin Allen is insisting that his unit was not consulted before a permit was granted for the Sandz party.

The senior cop was adamant yesterday that there should have been no such event on the Palisadoes strip.

Police Commissioner George Quallo admitted to being embarrassed by the traffic nightmare.

"The situation is a most unfortunate one as the pile-up of traffic has caused some level of embarrassment to the management of the organisation and our sworn responsibilities," Quallo said.

He was supposed to have submitted a report to National Security Minister Robert Montague yesterday on the traffic pile-up, which made international news, with emphasis on air traffic and airports.

In the meantime, the manage-ment of the NMIA said it was still assessing the operational impact occasioned by the traffic pile-up.

Alfred McDonald, senior director for commercial development and planning at the NMIA, told The Gleaner that the airport was also awaiting reports from the airlines to tally and confirm the total number of persons who would have missed their flights.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com