The St. James Municipal Corporation says it is fully prepared for any eventualities that may arise in the current hurricane season which started yesterday, June 1, 2021.
Giving this assurance at a news briefing last week, Chairman of the Corporation, Mayor Leeroy Williams said, “Jamaica is prone to hurricanes; we are in the hurricane zone so it’s not a matter of if it will come, it’s when it will come so we have to make sure that we are prepared.”
The StJMC has a Disaster Preparedness Hazard and Mitigation and Safety Committee on which sits representatives of all relevant government and private sectors agencies and the mayor says “it is prepared and ready in the event there is a hurricane and there are disasters.” Heavy equipment, including machinery which would be necessary to clear land slippages and other disruptions, have been mobilized through the JDF and the NWA.
Close contact is being maintained with agencies such as the fire brigade, Red Cross, public health services, which are designated first responders in the event of a disaster and Mayor Williams reports that “they all say that they are in a state of readiness.”
All councilors have also been placed on alert and are to ensure that drains and gullies in their divisions are cleaned to avoid excess flooding. Funds will be made available to them. Citizens are also implored to pay attention to flood gauges installed at flood prone areas of the city and to evacuate should the water reach danger levels.
Of major concern are the North and South gullies which run through the city. They are to be maintained by the NWA, but with the agency recently advising that it does not have money for that purpose, the mayor is giving an assurance that the municipal corporation will step up and clean them.
Regarding drains, Mayor Williams said road maintenance was ongoing but admitted that “funding is really an issue so things are going a bit slow.”
There are 63 shelters spread out across the parish and shelter managers have their kits with water boots, raincoats, flashlights and personal protective equipment, inclusive of masks and sanitizers to adhere to COVID protocols.
Disaster Preparedness Parish Co-ordinator Tamoy Sinclair, said Shelter Managers have been instructed on how to address persons who may find themselves seeking refuge. Also, a team drawn from the municipal corporation, fire brigade, the public health department and Ministry of Labour and Social Security has inspected the shelters and a COVID isolation area designated at each facility.
Reflecting on the massive flooding of downtown Montego Bay by the North Gully in 2017, Deputy Mayor Richard Vernon said lessons were learnt by residents on how to deal with situation that would arise should there be a recurrence.
He said to reduce the volume of debris accumulated during a flood, “work is currently going on to concrete the Capital Heights section of the gully and with an upgrade, we are expecting less silt to flow to the lower end and contribute to the overflow of the gully.”