With Category 4 Hurricane Dorian still wreaking havoc on the Bahamas, having first passed Barbados as a weakened tropical storm, the head of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), is warning Barbadians against thinking that they can let their guard down.
Executive Director of CDEMA Ronald Jackson pointed out that given the fact that Barbados has gone a prolonged period without any major impact from hurricanes, the conditions are in place for complacency to set in.
“There is still a sector of our society that once we go five or ten years without our own individual experience, we become complacent. This impacts on our level of preparedness and I would like to say that we can never be too prepared because these things are cyclical in nature. In recent times we have seen some countries impacted more often than others. So, we must keep on paying attention,” said Jackson, who was giving an update on the state of affairs in the Bahamas.
He noted that so far Hurricane Dorian, which is recorded as the second strongest in history, has proven to be quite unpredictable, having defied expectations of petering out after passing Barbados.
Jackson explained that the hurricane, which has severely impacted the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, has slowed down from its original forward speed of five miles per hour to one mile per hour, prolonging the impact of the weather system. He explained that based on the limited information on the ground, due to the persistence of the hurricane, it was difficult to gauge the number of casualties at this juncture.
“This is sitting on top of the Grand Bahama and it is unleashing all of its elements and it is the second strongest storm in history. They are facing the brunt of this storm for two days now and they are likely to continue to face the brunt of the storm going into Tuesday. Initially the information that we were given from the local Met office expected the all-clear to be given on Tuesday afternoon, but with the changing forward speed this is looking to be optimistic at best. We are thinking this is likely to be Wednesday,” Jackson revealed.
He added, “This would delay our ability to get into these two islands and assess the level of impact. I know questions abound as to the number of casualties based on what is on social media. Whether these numbers are higher or lower or whether these are bodies coming from the local cemeteries, we do not know. We will have all of those details when the team is on the ground and can get all of that information.”
The CDEMA head revealed that based on the conversations with experts on the ground, water, communication, food and medical treatment are projected to be among the most pressing needs. He explained that there is currently a fear of contamination of the water supply and a request has been made to CDEMA to source equipment that would help to address these concerns.
“A lot of what we have been able to define has been largely based on the pre-impact information, what we know of the infrastructure, what we know of the housing stock and to match that against the hazard itself. We are looking at the most vulnerable population. What we do know of the population of 76 000, 22 per cent are children, 70 per cent between the age of 15 to 64 and the remainder are persons over the age of 64,” he noted. [email protected]