This has rendered some roads impassable, restricting access to several communities.
In an interview with journalists, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NWA, E.G. Hunter, said the focus is now on clearing roads to gain access to places most in need of repairs.
“Very little reconstruction will be done in the next couple of days. Simultaneously with the clearance of the roads, we will be doing an assessment,” he noted.
“There has to be a process of prioritization, because given our fiscal position, one has to be very smart and very intelligent in terms of how we choose what we work on and when. So, I think the Government is going to require some understanding and some patience, because given the enormity of what we have seen, it is not going to be a cheap exercise,” Mr. Hunter said.
The CEO was part of a team, led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, which toured some of the worst affected areas on May 17.
Other members of the touring party were Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang; Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson; Director General, Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Major Clive Davis; Director of Communication and Customer Service, NWA, Stephen Shaw, and representatives from the island’s emergency services.
Among the communities visited were Sunnyside in Linstead, St. Catherine; Douglas Castle, St. Ann; and Cave Valley, which is located on the border of St. Ann and Clarendon.
Jamaica experienced persistent heavy rainfall from May 13 to May 15.
The parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester, St. Elizabeth, St. Mary, Portland, and St. Ann have been severely impacted.
The Prime Minister, who was in the Dominican Republic on an official visit, cut short his visit and returned to the island on May 16 to tour the affected communities.
In the meantime, Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie, says the damage caused by the heavy rainfall is a clear indication that the infrastructural network is inadequate to deal with such occurrences.
He told the media that the unprecedented level of rainfall in some parishes was way beyond what was calculated for in the original planning and development of the communities.
“The population in most communities and town centres has grown beyond what it was 10 to 20 years ago. Nobody can deny that a lot of effort was made in having drains cleaned across the country. What we are experiencing is a level of rainfall that the parishes have not seen in quite a long time, over 10 inches within the first two days. Simply put, the drains were overwhelmed,” he said.
Mr. McKenzie argued that the deluge is as a result of a mixture of events, such as people building in ‘no build’ zones, the chopping down of trees and shrubbery on the hillsides for agricultural cultivation, destroying the hills to build houses and to burn coal.
The Minister said that $175 million has been allocated to six municipal corporations as emergency funding to address critical infrastructural repairs in the affected parishes, particularly the restoration of access to communities marooned or restricted by flooding and land slippages.
“This $175 million has been allocated to Clarendon, Manchester, Portland, St. Elizabeth, St. Thomas and Westmoreland. We are going to be making an additional allocation to the St. Ann Municipal Corporation, because of the problems they are experiencing,” he added.
Mr. McKenzie said the Government is working assiduously to provide relief in all affected parishes.
A review is to be undertaken of existing structures, particularly in town centres and other urban areas of the country, to see where drainage capacity can be significantly expanded in the short to medium term.
Mr. McKenzie reiterated that the Ministry will collaborate with the National Works Agency (NWA) to develop an infrastructural programme to address the issue of flooding.
The Minister also indicated that all parish councils will receive funding for phase one of the annual mitigation programme.
- Countries: Jamaica