Hurricane-ready despite COVID-19, says McKenzie

With the Atlantic hurricane season now under way Minister of Local Government Desmond McKenzie is assuring the country that it is in safe hands despite the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to McKenzie, 2020 is posing a great challenge for the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) which has overall responsibility for disaster programmes in the country.

“Normally we would be focusing our attention squarely at this time on the Atlantic hurricane season, but unfortunately, since early this year we have been turning our attention to the dreaded disease, the coronavirus virus which has been wreaking havoc across the world. There is no playbook as to how we respond… therefore we have to rely on the experts and on credible information, as a people, to respond to the crisis,” McKenzie told a digital town hall meeting put on by the Ministry in the Corporate Area late last week.

He said while the country is now facing the perils of what promises to be a very active hurricane season along with the dengue season, and the virus outbreak, the ODPEM is equal to the task.

“Let me say without doubt, the prime minister, when he officially convened the National Disaster Risk Management Council, indicated to the public that all systems are up and running. The ODPEM is well equipped… as the minister with responsibility I want to assure the country that all the resources that will be required to ensure that we can respond in a positive and meaningful way will be provided by the Government,” declared McKenzie.

“It would be remiss of me not to mention that there have been negative comments that have been made about the work of ODPEM by persons who are misinformed and are not cognisant of the role of the ODPEM. I want to assure the country that we are in safe hands in regards to the management of disasters,” added McKenzie.

He said parishes such as Clarendon, Portland, St Catherine, sections of St Mary, and sections of St Ann, which have been trouble spots over the years, remain areas of concern but not without remedy.

“Because of the work we have been doing over the years we have been able to minimise, in some areas, the effects of previous disasters. We might not have been able to deal effectively with all the areas but we will ensure that is done. I want to appeal to Jamaicans to ensure that we work together,” McKenzie told the virtual media briefing.

According to the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, based on forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization out of the United States, anywhere between 13 and 19 tropical storms are expected this year, with between six and 10 hurricanes and an average of three to six major hurricanes developing.

The hurricane season starts today and runs until November 30.

However tropical storms Arthur and Bertha arrived early.

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