Rush on for Tomas
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Still reeling from the ravages wrought by Tropical Storm Nicole just over a month ago, the Bruce Golding administra-tion yesterday mustered its forces in the face of another onslaught, this time by Tomas, a weather system that has battered sections of the Eastern Caribbean, leaving at least 12 dead in St Lucia.
As a pre-emptive strike against Tomas, Golding yesterday went to Cabinet to seek approval to invoke emergency powers that would give him the authority to waive some of the procurement guidelines that are hampering the preparatory exercise.
"The Government is facing some challenges in relation to the procure-ment guidelines and stipulations to get contractors to do some of the necessary work," Information Minister Daryl Vaz disclosed.
"The prime minister plans to invoke emergency powers on a limited basis," he added.
Tomas weakened on the weekend from a Category 2 hurricane to a tropical storm.
Headed for haiti
The system is now headed for hapless Haiti, but could strengthen once more into a deadly hurricane and turn its venom on rain-drenched Jamaica.
Vaz asserted that the Government's concern was heightened because of the level of saturation, which, he stressed, rendered the situation dangerous in low-lying and some flood-prone areas.
Director of the Meteorological Service, Sylvia McGill, confirmed at the same press conference convened by the Government that the tropical storm could re-energise to hurricane levels as it comes into contact with Jamaica.
Forecasts are that Jamaica could be lashed by the outer bands of the weather system late Thursday.
The Government is moving swiftly to prevent a recurrence of the deadly effects of Tropical Storm Nicole, which claimed the lives of more than a dozen Jamaicans and stunned the nation with grief and loss.
Houses were destroyed and the island's road network was a tattered mess in the aftermath of the storm.
Vaz disclosed that the Government was rushing to activate a communications system, involving major cellular networks, to make use of SMS or texting facilities on mobile phones.
"This is intended to provide information on what is to be done prior, during, and afterwards," the information minister said.
He revealed that the Meteorological Service would start the communication exercise by dispatching two bulletins per day until there are changes.
Additionally, up to yesterday, a hotline was being set up to enable people to seek assistance, including for the pruning of trees, to enable them to withstand the effects of the weather system.
"This is being done to allow people to make the decisions that are necessary," he said. "We are making sure that the coordinates are up to par, well oiled, and ready to be activated."
Vaz disclosed that the Government had activated international protocols that open the door for flood assistance.
"We are being as proactive as possible," the minister said.
Vaz was supported by the director general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, Ronald Jackson, who revealed that the protocol with the western Caribbean had been put in place.
Despite the predicament facing Jamaica, both Vaz and Jackson expressed concern about the likely effects of Tomas on Haiti, which has been devastated by a massive earthquake, rains, and a cholera outbreak since the start of the year.