Current Affairs

Current Affairs

  

  
 

PM outlines disaster relief plan
The Gleaner
Tuesday, June 10, 2002



 


Prime Minister PJ Patterson contemplates national issues in Parliament. - File

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson in an update to the nation in Parliament last Tuesday, following 10 days of continuous rainfall which devastated several parishes, declared five parishes disaster areas.

He also spoke of unprecedented levels of flooding in some areas and sources of funding that have been identified to undertake the recovery effort.

Below is the full text of the Prime Minister's statement:

IN THE aftermath of the heavy and persistent rainfall and flooding which affected the entire island from 22-31 May 2002 the country will now have to focus on repairing the substantial damage which has been done to roads, bridges, water and health infrastructure, houses, livestock and crops.

Several areas had up to three times the "30-year Mean" rain-fall for the respective parishes. For example, in Manchester Devon had 901mm of rainfall and Knockpatrick 1487mm between May 27 and 30, while the "30-year Mean" is 237mm.

In Clarendon, Osbourne Store 1050mm; Beckford and Vernamfield 1030mm and St. Jago 906.4mm. The mean is 181mm.

In St. Catherine, Bodles 710mm against a 30-year Mean of 131mm. That gives you an idea of the level of rainfall Jamaica experienced in the last week of May.

Widespread disruption of basic services and significant reduction in economic activity has resulted from the floods. Nine lives have been lost and thousands of persons have suffered loss or damage to their homes and personal belongings.

Throughout the period up to 500 families were in shelters and at present approximately 350 persons remain.

Based on preliminary assessments $1.3 billion will be required for recovery and rehabilitation.

It is estimated that $231.8mwill be needed now while the requirement over the medium-term is $1.1B. The following should be noted.

Ministry of Health In addition to the $30m required immediately, a further $28m may be needed for refurbishing of hospitals and health centres in the long-term.

Ministry of Agriculture The target population is small farmers and the proposal is to assist the most needy within this group.

Ministry of Water & Housing An estimated $49.9mwill be required.

WELFARE

The extent to which families have been affected by the disaster cannot be overstated. Fifteen Hundred (1500) families have already been investigated but indications are, that as many as 5,000 families or 20,000 individuals may have been affected.

Special teams have been deployed to expedite the investigation. This particular exercise has to be undertaken as a matter of urgency because we are now in the hurricane season and are more likely to be impacted by severe weather systems.

The nation should also be reminded of the fact that we have not fully recovered from the devastation to Portland and St. Mary caused by the flooding associated with Hurricane Michelle six months ago.

Much work has been done in repairing the road network and other infrastructure, particularly bridges as well as the rehabilitation of families. Over $700 million has been committed for road repairs in these parishes, and several millions in grants to victims.

However, there are some families still remaining in shelters. These families lost their homes in the flood and will have to be relocated, as their former place of residence is either non-existent or unsuitable for dwelling purposes.

The relocation process involves many aspects, inclusive of identification and acquisition of safe land and the construction of houses.

I am pleased to report that the process has now been completed and the families will all be relocated before the end of June.

CDB & IDB LOANS

Based on the magnitude of the damage to the infrastructure and the need to create a sustainable system for administering a safe and reliable network, including maintenance, the Government has had to seek overseas financing totaling US$69.5M.

US$25M was approved on May 13, 2002 by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for work to be carried out in the parishes of Portland, St. Mary and St. Andrew.

This loan will be used for the rehabilitation of roads, bridges, retaining walls and drainage structures as well as river training works, engineering consultancy and project management.

A first tranche of US$4.7M is to be drawn down by June 30 to go towards work already done.

A loan of US$24.5M has been secured from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The loan was approved on November 2001 and falls under the National Road Safety Improvement programme.

This loan is to create a self-sustainable system for administering a safe and reliable road network. This will be done by strengthening the capacity of the National Works Agency (NWA) and establishing an improved road maintenance programme.

The projects under this loan will be implemented in two phases over a 32-month period.

The second loan of US$20M from the IDB is to effect repairs and rehabilitation in areas, including Portland, damaged as a result of the November 2001 flood rains.

The application for this loan was made in February of this year and approval is now
pending.

The main purpose of this loan is to execute a programme of preventative works on the main road network to ensure their preservation and safe operation during expected rains.

Specifically, it will be used to carry out slope stabilisation, drainage improvements, minor pavement interventions and riverbank stabilisation.

$US.5M of this amount will also be used for strengthening the emergency preparednes of the NWA.

The current situation has compounded the problem and place tremendous strain on the country's resources. There is a need therefore for external support to deal with the medium to long-term recovery efforts in the various sectors that have been affected.

The damage caused by the most recent rainfall and flooding has very serious implications for the economy and social well being of the people in the affected areas.

The damage to the road network has severely restricted accessibility and has impacted on the level of economic activity.

Agriculture, the economic mainstay of most of these areas, has also been greatly affected. The health hazard posed by the widespread death of livestock, the damage to water supply systems, destruction of sanitary conveniences, and the large bodies of stagnant water make it imperative for immediate actions.

On several previous occasions I have drawn to the attention of this Honourable House, that the powers which may be invoked during a period of public emergency do not differentiate whether that public emergency is the result of a natural disaster, outbreak of infectious disease, or other calamity, or because of "action taken or immediately threatened by any person or body of persons of such a nature and on so extensive a scale as is likely to endanger the public safety or deprive the public of supplies or services essential to life."

For these reasons, as well as the possible implications to our tourism industry and investment climate, no government would wish lightly to invoke the Emergency Powers Act. We do not contemplate this in the present situation.

It is, however, beyond question that the damage occasioned by the torrential rain for eleven consecutive days has resulted in severe and extensive damage. Virtually every parish has been adversely affected.

Some parishes have suffered unprecedented levels of flooding and severe damage.

The Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Act of 1993 provides for the declaration of disaster areas in parts of the island, without leaving to resort to any suspension of constitutional rights and liberties anywhere.

Section 12 enables the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management to advise the Minister when any part of the island "appears to be threatened with, or affected by natural or technological hazard" and special measures need to be taken promptly.

In turn, the Minister is required to notify me, in writing, so that I may, by Order published in the Gazette, declare such part of the island to be a disaster area and effect the introduction of such special measures as appear necessary.

Having regard to the widespread nature of the flooding, and the effect of the heavy rainfall in the worst affected parishes, the significance of the consequential impact on the economy and social sector; taking into account the presence of the hurricane season, which makes us more vulnerable to heavy rains, I have been advised to declare the parishes of St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St. Catherine and St. Thomas as disaster areas, in accordance with the provisions of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Act.

This will enable the following measures to be undertaken, in order to reduce further loss and mitigate the impact that could ensure during the hurricane season:

Vector control to reduce breeding and elimination of adult vectors and reduce the spread of disease.

Implementation of measures to monitor water quality.

Burial of dead livestock to reduce the threat of disease.

Cleaning and opening of roads to allow access to cut off communities.

Clearing/cleaning of drains in the parishes to reduce water levels and to prevent flooding in further rainfall.

Provision of welfare relief to affected families to return life to normality.

I must point out that our relief and rehabilitation efforts will not be confined to the parishes that have been subject to this declaration, but will extend to wherever damage has occurred.

This course of action will, however, enable us to concentrate on restoring normal social and economic activities in the areas declared, within the shortest possible time.

It represents the most effective approach in minimising the long-term soio-economic impact of this disaster.

Let us once again, for the purpose of avoiding any mischief, reiterate that this is not a State of Emergency and there will be no breach or suspension whatsoever of any fundamental human rights or freedoms.

I intend the Order to remain in force for a period not exceeding three months, that is, to end on 31st August 2002.

During this period, the measures I have specified will be undertaken in the declared areas to remove or otherwise guard against the natural hazard being experienced in those areas and the probable consequences thereof or mitigating, as far as possible, such hazard.

To this end the Minister of Finance has been instructed to apply to the IDB for loan funding of US$20 million under the Banks Emergency Reconstruction Facility to support the immediate disaster recovery effort.