Current Affairs

Current Affairs




Ja may seek flood aid
PM says country likely to get external help for rehabilitation
Observer Reporter
Wednesday, October 02, 2002



Prime Minister P J Patterson speaks to reporters at Jamaica House yesterday, after a helicopter tour of flood damage in St Thomas. Beside him is Barbara Carby, the director-general of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management. (Photo: Bryan Cummings)

THE government said yesterday that it may have to seek more international aid to help pay for the damage left by Tropical Storm Lili, whose destructive thumping of Jamaica came four months after unseasonal rains wreaked havoc across the island.

Prime Minister P J Patterson signalled the likely new trek to institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) after chairing a meeting of the National Disaster Committee (NDC) to review the damage left by Lili that pummelled Jamaica over the weekend and into Monday.

Last night, Lili, having strengthened to a hurricane and roared across western Cuba, was in the Gulf of Mexico taking aim at the US Gulf Coast.

South Louisiana appeared destined for a hit or high winds and rain and residents were warned that they may have to evacuate early today.

Patterson told reporters that it was still too early to fully quantify the cost of the impact of the storm on Jamaica, but said: "There may be need for seeking external assistance or asking for some adjustments to finance assistance that was already made available or committed as a result of the May/June floods."

The rains in May and June left more than J$1 billion worth of damage to infrastructure and agriculture and the IDB quickly approved a US$20 million rehabilitation package for the island. The CDB also approved a US$5 million loan.

While Lili, which moved out of Jamaica's range on Monday, did not give the island the prolonged dousing of the earlier weather system, its rains fell onto an already drenched and saturated earth, making it more susceptible to landslides and floods.

The eastern parish of St Thomas, where three persons died, and St Andrew in the southeast were particularly hard hit, by Lili.

Yesterday, Patterson inspected the damage from aboard a Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) helicopter: the collapsed bridges, broken roads, flattened crops, dead livestock, marooned communities and buried homes.

"All rivers are virtually in spate and anywhere that the water can find passage to lower ground it has done so, leaving a lot of damage and destruction," said Patterson after his aerial tour.

Up to yesterday, 1,322 persons were in 23 shelters across the island, 147 roads reported to be either blocked or seriously affected by landslides and 30 water systems were inoperable.

Patterson said that the government would "respond to the priority requirements", using its own resources, but indicated that may not be enough to deal with the wider problem.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security was mandated at yesterday's meeting of the NDC to co-ordinate the assessment of the damage and phased recovery programme. The labour and social security minister, Dean Peart, is to meet tomorrow with finance minister, Omar Davies, to determine the budgetary requirements for the short-term rehabilitation.

The first phase, which will begin immediately, includes the re-establishing of road access, the distribution of relief supplies and potable water as well as vector control and social welfare. Food, bedding and other supplies will be airlifted to communities that are either isolated or cut off, Peart said in a statement last night.

In addition, the National Works Agency has been instructed to erect a Bailey Bridge by next Tuesday to temporarily reconnect Kingston and St Thomas via the Yallahs Fording, where more than 100 feet of the bridge was washed away by Lili's rains.

The JDF's engineering section will help with the Yallahs project.

Today, Peart is heading for St Elizabeth, while housing and water minister, Donald Buchanan will travel to Clarendon and St Catherine to see firsthand, some of the damages. Their information, supported by the findings of their experts, will likely feed into tomorrow's meeting between Peart and Davies.

Patterson underlined the national nature of the catastrophe and stressed that rehabilitation had to "focus on the needs of the nation as a whole", without partisan distinction.

"The bad weather made no distinction based on political community," he said yesterday. "It affected people of different political stripes. Naturally, this is a period of political exuberance but we have placed this priority effort as a government on the relief operations."

Added Patterson: "As prime minister of Jamaica, I accept the responsibility to lead the national effort at this time in the interests of the nation as a whole... and those instructions have been repeated to my ministers today and to all the officials no matter in what agency they represent."