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How the nation prepared for Charley
published: Thursday | August 12, 2004

THE ISLAND was yesterday spared a direct hit from Hurricane Charley, even as people across the parishes took precautions to protect life and property, evacuation centres were activated, and emergency supplies put in place.

In Manchester, residents were seen making frantic purchases of emergency supplies, while heads of over 12 emergency agencies met and prepared for the likely disaster, including the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), hospital, police, army, church, the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), Social Development Commission, National Works Agency (NWA) and Red Cross.

In Christiana there was a traffic pile-up as motorists shopped.

HOSPITALS READY

"We are preventing congestion now and will maintain a presence to avoid any looting later," said a member of the Christiana Traffic Police.

Several hospitals, including Mandeville Regional, discharged patients who were well enough to go home so as to make more beds available.

Yesterday Mayor of May Pen and chairman of the Disaster Preparedness Committee, Councillor Milton Brown, who was out on the road early with his team, told The Gleaner that Clarendon was in a "pretty good shape".

St. Catherine reported a fair state of readiness in terms of personnel, shelter and food, but lack of adequate funds had hampered work in some critical areas in case of emergency.

Mayor of Spanish Town, Dr. Raymoth Notice, reported that the Council has been activated and all agencies were in the process of informing the relevant authorities. He said that he had been in touch with Councillors, the NWA, the ODPEM and contractors.

Mayor of St. Ann's Bay, Councillor Delroy Giscombe, said instructions had been given for all disaster relief centres to be opened and centre managers put in place across the parish to ensure that all those who were in unsafe locations could relocate.

RELIEF SUPPLIES

He said the Council has also put in place a stock of food and other emergency items in the event that there is need for such relief supplies.

However, only half of that amount have been approved by the Ministry.

In St. Elizabeth, checks with the local Disaster Preparedness office in Black River revealed that all shelter managers were put on alert in light of the threats from Hurricane Charley.

Speaking with The Gleaner,Yvonne Morrison, Disaster Preparedness coordinator for St. Elizabeth said that all of the 105 emergency shelters were ready to accommodate residents if any flooding were to occur in the parish. She said that all the agencies had been put on emergency watch to provide assistance where needed.

DRAIN CLEANING PROJECT

When contacted by The Gleaner for a comment, Kenroy Stewart, Superintendent of Roads and Works at the St. Elizabeth Parish Council, said that drain cleaning effort had started across the parish following an emergency allocation of $1.5 million to the agency by the Ministry of Local Government.

Over in Portland, Miss Fay Neufville, parish co-ordinator for ODPEM, said that 74 shelters would have been opened today if necessary. She said that all the emergency systems were activated, and warned persons in the Swift River area of Portland, which flooded in the recent past, to evacuate to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, if necessary.

Contributing Correspondents - Byron McDaniel, Livingston Allen, Rayon Dyer, Devon Evans and Gareth Davis)

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