ODPEM: Remain earthquake-ready
J’cans urged to know precautions, have drills to reduce risks
Jamaicans are being encouraged to reacquaint themselves with earthquake drills after a 4.9-magnitude trembler shook sections of the island on Thursday.
The Earthquake Unit at The University of the West Indies said the earthquake was felt primarily in St Thomas, Portland, Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, and Clarendon. Its epicentre was located approximately five kilometres west of Hope Bay, Portland, with a focal depth of 15.3 kilometres.
Michelle Edwards, acting deputy director general at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), said knowing and practising earthquake drills are important to minimising injuries.
“Once people don’t have to use it (drills), they are not going to remember; they’re going to lose it. And so it’s very important for us to not just speak about it, and have sensitisations sessions, but people need to actually do the drills,” she said.
WAITING FOR HOUSE TO COLLAPSE
Winston Higgins, a 55-year-old plumber from Sandy Park in St Andrew, told The Gleaner that while the earthquake was happening, he laid on his bed waiting for it to pass and did not think of doing anything to protect himself.
“A di building mi a wait pon fi collapse, y’know, ‘cause it a shake. Mi nuh know if a [because] mi deh pon di bed, it just feel really heavy,” he said.
Another resident of the area, Marian Sealey, said she also remained in bed and waited for the tremor to end.
And while she understands the importance of the drills, Sealey said she was paralysed by fear.
“Sometime it mek yuh fraid still, y’know. You know like some other country, how it do some other country? Yuh nuh know when it a guh do Jamaica dah way deh,” she said. “Dem something deh mek yuh heart start beat fast.”
Angela White, a 62-year-old resident of the community, was worshipping at the time of the quake.
But having lived in the flood-prone Sandy Park for most of her life, White said she is hoping that the development of the infrastructure in the community has better fortified it against natural disasters.
“First time it was fence and [barb] wire and the road was like a track … . [Now there are] wall structures and proper housing. A nuh like one time yuh did have di whole heap a board house; di place build up more,” she told The Gleaner.
Dawn Holness, a resident of Kintyre, said she relied on her faith to keep her safe.
“Nothing neva did a go wrong wid mi. Mi nuh know ‘bout other people who fraid fi earthquake and storm and dem ting deh. ... Yuh see from yuh trust in a God, den yuh nuffi fear nothing ‘cause if Him can’t protect you from harm and nature, who can protect yuh?” she said.
But ODPEM’s Edwards said people can protect themselves during an earthquake by taking several precautions, including taking cover under a chair or a desk, standing in the door jamb, and avoiding elevators.
Maintaining composure is also key, she said.
“It is important to stay calm because if you, for example, run out of a building or anything, you could be injured. There are things like power lines that could come down,” she said.
Edwards said that ODPEM received preliminary reports of electricity outage in Port Royal, Kingston, and sections of St Catherine.
The Jamaica Public Service Company did not respond to Gleaner queries on the impact of the earthquake on its systems up to press time last night.
Meanwhile, acting corporate public relations manager at the National Water Commission (NWC), Delano Williams, said that preliminary reports showed that no NWC infrastructure was displaced. He explained that the pipeline systems are generally able to withstand a certain level of shock and vibration.
“We continue to assess our network as sometimes [problems] only come to surface in subsequent days and there are segments of our network situated in very remote locations,” he said.
NO DROUGHT CONNECTION
Meanwhile, Dr Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr, executive director of the Mona GeoInformatics Institute, sought to dispel conceptions that the persistent drought that the island has been experiencing could have triggered the quake.
“There is no connection between earthquakes, volcanoes and climate. Earthquakes and volcanoes are geological hazards. Climate change is drought, hurricane, heavy rains. Weather is totally different from geology,” he said. “There is nothing we can do to stop geological hazards.”