By Damion Mitchell, Staff Reporter
TRANSPORT AND Works Minister, Robert Pickersgill, said yesterday that it has cost $7 million so far to clear blocked roads in the six parishes that were hardest hit by strong winds and heavy rains associated with Hurricane Charley on Wednesday night.
At the same time a spokesman for the Jamaica Agriculture Society (JAS) has indicated that the price of several condiments will rise soon due to the destruction of several crops.
Addressing reporters at a press conference at the National Works Agency's Maxfield Avenue offices in St. Andrew, Mr. Pickersgill said from all indications, St. Elizabeth was hardest hit, accounting for about 12 of the 32 road sections which were damaged.
He added that $4.23 million of the total cost has been spent clearing roads in that parish alone. The other badly affected parishes are Manchester, St. Ann, St. Mary, Westmoreland and Trelawny.
Mr. Pickersgill said officers from his ministry were still carrying out assessments of the damage to road surfaces caused by the disaster and that a full report would be submitted by next week.
Up to yesterday, the Mountainside to Bigwoods main road in St. Elizabeth was still impassable due to flooding, but according to Pickersgill, "We have been responsive... to the situation on the road networks."
Meanwhile, Yvonne Morrison, Disaster Preparedness Co-ordinator for the parish said efforts were being made to have portable water trucked to Bigwoods by the National Water Commission (NWC) beginning today.
And Kingsley Clarke, second vice-president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) later alerted consumers to expect significant shortages of condiments such as escallion, thyme and pepper due to numerous farms in St. Elizabeth being 'totally devastated' by the flood waters.
Speaking at a press briefing at the JAS offices in downtown Kingston, Mr. Clarke also said that price increases were imminent.
In the meantime, the JAS is appealing to the Ministry of Agriculture to have the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) conduct a speedy assessment of the damage to farms so that the required amount of assistance can be provided for the farmers to do replanting and reduce the possibility of increased importation.
He said the damage to farms by the Hurricane conditions was especially untimely given that just over three months ago, numerous farmers lost thousands of dollars worth of crops in a hail storm, which was followed by the most recent period of prolonged drought.
Yesterday, Dr. Horace Chang a deputy leader of the Jamaica Labour Party, J.C Hutchinson, the Agriculture Spokesman for the party and Christopher Tufton president of G2K, the young professional arm of the JLP, toured several of the affected areas in St. Elizabeth including Bigwoods, Flagaman, Little Park and Seaview.
Local Government Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Robert Pickersgill Minister of Transport and Works and Donald Buchanan, Minister of Water and Housing will tour the affected areas in St. Elizabeth today.
Gleaner correspondent Rayon Dyer contributed to this story.