The sever weather pattern of heavy continuous rainfall over the island during the past week has dealt a severe blow to residents in the parishes of Portland and St. Mary and over the weekend, the situation worsened considerably throughout the entire island.

At first it was confined principally to the North East however, the flooding and damage from the rain has now affected most parishes including the Corporate Area.

I deeply regret the loss of all lives during last week and yesterday. To the bereaved families I extend my sympathy

During the period, many homes have been washed away

Rivers are in spate

Bridges have been extensively damaged

Portions of roads have virtually disappeared and numerous landslides have resulted in blockages

Our agricultural products have been destroyed.

At today's meeting of the Cabinet we received and discussed detailed reports from the Ministers whose areas of responsibility are directly involved, most of whom have travelled over the affected areas.

We also heard from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), the JDF and the National Works Agency.

We received in Cabinet a broard assessment of the personal losses to families and persons in all areas as well as damage to road infrastructure and our agricultural land. We had what at this stage are preliminary assessments.

Following the discussions in Cabinet I have directed that our immediate efforts should be focused on:

Emergency relief should be stepped up for persons in the severely damaged areas

All affected persons should be afforded some emergency relief

We have to keep health considerations in the forefront

The need to provide persons with temporary housing so that schools which serve as temporary shelters can be released for teaching to continue

We are moving to clear all main roads and parish council roads as swiftly as possible

Cabinet today authorised the Ministry of Finance and Planning to release the necessary funds for immediate emergency needs. We are proceeding to identify the financial resources for the medium and long term rebuilding process.

I wish to thank every one for their contribution so far:

The ODPEM and the local disaster committees for their swift response under pressure

The Jamaica Defence Force for its invaluable role

The Police for what they have been doing

The Ministry of Water and Housing for its quick response team

The National Works Agency for its clearance of roads so far

I want to thank the many volunteer agencies and individuals, which have come forward to lend their assistance in this time of need.

I want to assure the nation that the Government and the Agencies of State are doing all that is possible to provide the necessary relief and to alleviate the loss and discomfort being experienced at this time.

Tomorrow morning, I shall be making a visit to portions of St. Mary and Portland.

Later, in the afternoon, I will be making a Prime Ministerial statement in Parliament in which I will outline the plans and the arrangements for relief and rehabilitation.

I will set out in greater detail the instructions, which have been given to the respective Ministries, and to the Office of Disaster Preparedness.



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