Golding urges Gov’t to be proactive; wants quick response in ravaged southern parishes

Golding urges Gov’t to be proactive; wants quick response in ravaged southern parishes

With the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season predicted to be above normal, Opposition Leader Mark Golding is calling on the Government to be proactive in its preparation for the possibility of any system affecting Jamaica.

At the same time, he appealed to State agencies to prioritise relief response to southern parishes devastated by Category 4 Hurricane Beryl last week.

“This has been a trial run, and it has been a challenging one for many families. We are hoping that we are not going to see another one like this soon, but it is possible, so people have to be vigilant in their preparation,” he said during a tour of Alligator Pond, Manchester, on Sunday ahead of a scheduled visit to parts of southern St Elizabeth battered by the storm.

“The Government needs to also be vigilant in its preparation of the people. There are gullies, for example, that need to be cleaned… We need to prepare for hurricanes in a more meaningful way going forward, not an announcement the day before of some drain cleaning or an allocation to MPs which may take time to access. We need to have relief supplies and equipment ready to be rolled out in areas which are prone to being damaged. A whole different approach needs to be taken. We have lessons to be learnt from Beryl for sure,” added Golding. 

“I would have thought we would see more activity from the State agencies in the badly affected communities by now. I can understand a day or two of assessment but I think we are beyond that now and people are really starting to feel the effects of the deprivation caused by Beryl — no light, no water. This is the time when we want to see ODPEM [Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management] and the other State agencies showing themselves in the communities and delivering blankets, bedding, food items, water and so on,” added Golding.

“We are not looking to politicise this in any way but where we see the gaps we want to call them out and bring them to the attention of the Government so that we can respond quickly to them. Right now people are hurting in many parts of Jamaica. The assessment needs to move rapidly [so as] to get relief to people,” he said. 

He also criticised the management of ODPEM saying, “The whole structure of how we respond to disasters needs to be revamped. ODPEM needs to be more independent [and] more responsive. Now it has been subsumed in this Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation — this massive ministry — and it definitely isn’t as agile as it once was in dealing with the situations on the ground. I think that needs to be looked at afresh.

“This is a time when Jamaica needs to pull together. Four days after Beryl we want to see the signs of the State rolling out relief to people. People need zinc, building materials, bedding, food and water, so that they can start to put their lives back together,” added Golding.

He also said Jamaica Public Service company needs to reassess its readiness for natural disasters.

“There is a lot of work to be done because the line network seems to have not been very resilient. There are a lot of power lines down, not [necessarily] caused by tree damage but [some] just blew down. The resilience wasn’t there. They are going to have to take stock going forward on how they are going to make our power system more resilient,” he said.

“… Some of the poles seem to have been very vulnerable — even concrete poles that didn’t seem to be adequately anchored in the ground and have blown over. We are in an area now where the global warming that is taking place [means] that we are going to have stronger storms more frequently, so we have to prepare for it. This is maybe a crisis that hopefully can lead to more consciousness around the need for resilience going forward,” Golding said while pointing out that Jamaica may need overseas assistance to get communities back on the grid.