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Statement By Hon. Desmond Mckenzie On The Recent Incidents Of Floodings, Landslides

Statement By Hon. Desmond Mckenzie On The Recent Incidents Of Floodings, Landslides
Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie

KINGSTON (JIS) -- Mr. Speaker… • The Trough that affected the western Caribbean and brought sustained light to heavy rains to Jamaica since late last week, is expected to dissipate today. • In the space of a few short days, a number of parishes have been affected by flooding and landslides, as a result of the extensive rains influenced by the Trough. • In Clarendon alone Mr. Speaker, information from the National Meteorological Service is that almost 10 inches of rain was dumped on the parish in two days. • The Government is mindful of and sensitive to the losses of personal items, and of crops and livestock, that some of our residents and farmers have experienced. FLOODING AND LANDSLIDE EVENTS

• The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has reported, that incidents of flooding have affected residents of 11 communities in Clarendon, 3 communities St. Thomas, 3 in Portland, 2 in St. Mary, 4 in St. Elizabeth, 1 in St. James and 2 in St. Catherine.
• At the same time, landslide events have occurred in 5 communities in Clarendon, 3 communities in Portland, 3 communities in St. Thomas and 1 community in St. Catherine. The Reports from ODPEM reveal that Clarendon has been the most seriously affected parish Mr. Speaker.

IMMEDIATE RESPONSE MECHANISMS

• The ODPEM and the Local Authorities responded quickly to the needs of residents, and ensured that relief materials including mattresses, blankets, sheets, cases of drinking water and tarpaulins were supplied.
• A total of 49 people visited emergency Shelters in Clarendon and in St. Thomas last Saturday, April 22.
• 23 people received emergency care in Clarendon, while the remaining 26 were cared for in St. Thomas. All Shelters, Mr. Speaker, were deactivated the next day, Sunday April 23.
• The ODPEM paid special attention to the parish of Clarendon during the passage of this rain event, as it was asked by the Clarendon Municipal Corporation to intervene at that point. The other Municipal Corporations did not ask ODPEM for assistance during the rains, but the Agency stands ready to provide any post-event assistance that they may need.

OTHER RESPONSES – SPECIAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMME

• As is expected Mr. Speaker, various Ministries and Agencies of Government are now assessing the full impact of the rains.
• The social impact is of great concern, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, along with the Poor Relief Departments of the Local Authorities, voluntary agencies such as the Salvation Army, ABRA and the Red Cross, are gathering the necessary information.
• The intention, Mr. Speaker, is to use this information to implement a comprehensive Assistance Programme, to restore dignity to our affected citizens. The details of the Programme will be shared with the House in due course Mr. Speaker. The Ministry will also be providing financial assistance to affected Municipal Corporations.
• Additionally, the rubble created by the flooding and landslides will be removed.
• Just as importantly, the Ministry of Health is being engaged, as we try to guard against any potential mosquito nuisance or waterborne diseases, as the floodwaters subside.

PRELIMINARY ROAD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT REPORT

• The National Works Agency is conducting an assessment of damage to the main road network, while the parochial road and minor water supply network, is being assessed by the Ministry’s Technical Services Division, supported by the Municipal Corporations.
• The Preliminary report of the National Works Agency is that there is damage to the main road network across ten parishes, with Clarendon, St. Thomas, St. Catherine, St. Elizabeth and Portland being particularly affected.
• The estimate to repair the damage is J$352 million.
• The assessment of the municipal infrastructure by the Ministry’s Technical team and the local authorities, has so far revealed a damage assessment total of J$139.8 million across three parishes: Clarendon, St. Elizabeth and St. Thomas. (St. Elizabeth: $23.5 million, St. Thomas: $30 million, Clarendon: $86.3 million).
• The total damage estimate to this point Mr. Speaker, is therefore J$491.8 million.

MAJOR REVIEW OF DRAINAGE NETWORK CAPACITY
• The events of the past few days have exposed the need for a comprehensive review of, and major changes to the drainage infrastructure in many parts of the country, Mr. Speaker.
• It is clear that our ability to absorb extraordinary weather events without disruption to normal life, is not where it ought to be.
• The civil works infrastructure has not matched or exceeded the pace of population growth and physical development over time. Flooding has become a recurring experience, even in the absence of Hurricanes or Tropical Storms, and even where existing drainage is properly maintained.
• To use 19 Miles, Mineral Heights and parts of May Pen in Clarendon as examples, the National Works Agency has specifically reported that “The drainage features were simply overwhelmed by the volume of water that was dumped on the areas in such a short space of time. Checks after the event on Sunday revealed that many of the drains were in fact clean and functional, even after the flooding.”
• One of the responsibilities of Local Government is the maintenance of the network of parochial infrastructure, which includes drains. We continue to collaborate closely with the National Works Agency, which has responsibility for main roads.
• I wish to advise that the Ministry will be reviewing the existing structures, particularly in town centres and other urbanized areas of the country, to see where runoff capacity can be significantly expanded in the short to medium term. While there are other factors that can be cited as causes of flooding Mr. Speaker, there is simply no denying that insufficient drainage capacity is a fundamental reason, and the time has come to address the problems associated with rain events in a fundamental way.
• In keeping with the joined-up-government approach that I have outlined today, this Ministry will collaborate with the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, under which the National Works Agency falls.
• The objective is to develop a programme to expand the country’s infrastructure, to put an end to flooding once any type of rain occurs.
• This is a crucial element of the strategy to reduce the impact, and therefore the macro-economic costs of weather systems on the country.
• Thank you Mr. Speaker.