Informal settlements vulnerability to earthquakes draws gov't's attention
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie says informal settlements are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquakes which makes it a major concern for the government.
In a speech delivered by Director of Urban and Regional Planning in the Ministry, Marsha Henry-Martin, at a function organised yesterday to mark Earthquake Awareness Week, McKenzie said some 30,000 households in 700 informal settlements across the island are at risk.
He said the danger posed by earthquakes is serious and persons need to change their attitudes and become aware in order to be prepared for the eventualities that can result from an earthquake.
He said the new Building Code, which is contained in the Building Bill now being debated in the Senate, will address a wide range of construction and spatial issues, including squatting and will put Jamaica in a better position to prepare for earthquakes and other disasters.
In the meantime, Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Major Clive Davis, said Jamaica is located in a highly active seismic zone that experiences an average of 200 earthquakes annually.
Consequently, he says the issue of earthquake awareness must be taken very seriously.
He noted that ODPEM undertakes several sensitisation programmes, simulation exercises and equip personnel with the requisite skills and tools to respond effectively in the aftermath of an event.