120 J'can soldiers depart for the Bahamas
A contingent of 120 Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers departed the island this afternoon to provide recovery and humanitarian support to the Bahamas following the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian.
They were accompanied by 11 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which provided airlift support.
At least 43 persons in the Bahamas have died and homes and infrastructure destroyed as a result of Hurricane Dorian, which hit the country as a Category Five system.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who met with the troops at the Norman Manley International Airport ahead of the departure, expressed gratitude to the Canadian Government for facilitating the deployment of the JDF Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to the Bahamas.
“This is now the second time that the Governments of Jamaica and Canada and the defence forces of both countries have worked together to provide airlift for the Disaster Assistance Response Team,” he said, noting the airlift support provided for deployment of the JDF to Dominica in the aftermath of hurricane in 2017.
The prime minister said the JDF is prepared to assist in any area that the Bahamian Government may require but in the initial stages, the focus will be on recovery, search and rescue, logistics, medical assistance and any emergency engineering needs.
“So far, what we have seen is that in the initial stages there will be need for recovery assistance because the damage was so extensive; there will be need for logistics assistance as well,” he noted.
Holness said the Government of Jamaica is considering other ways of supporting the people of the Bahamas, noting that he has been in close contact with the country’s Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.
In the meantime, he said a decision was taken to increase the members of the JDF DART given the threats associated with climate change.
“We recognise that with the change in climate that we could have multiples of these kinds of extreme weather events and so, although we are sending 120 men to the Bahamas, we still have reserve capacity here, that God forbid, anything was to happen in Jamaica or elsewhere, (we) would be in a position to respond,” he said.
Holness charged the team to be good ambassadors of Jamaica while executing their duties.
“There are Jamaicans in the Bahamas, look out for them as you would look out for the Bahamian people that you are going there to serve,” he said.
For her part, Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica, Laurie Peters, said her country stands ready to collaborate and provide assistance.
“We are standing side by side with Jamaica in support of our Caribbean neighbours. It’s a proud moment for me to see the Royal Canadian Air Force, Hercules C130 (aircraft) here in duty to transport and airlift the Jamaica Defence Force in aid of the Bahamian people,” she said.
Also at the airport were Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith; Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, and Canadian Defence Attaché to the West Indies Col. Jacques O’Keefe.