Wednesday 18 September, 2019

CDEMA Director: mandatory evacuation could have reduced death toll

Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Ronald Jackson

Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Ronald Jackson

Had some of the residents of Abaco Islands and the Grand Bahama island evacuated, the death tolls from Hurricane Dorian on The Bahamas would have been drastically less.

The suggestion from Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), Ronald Jackson as the Health Minister in the Bahamas Dr Duane Sands said there was the possibility that some victims were washed out to sea and may never be found while many other bodies are feared buried in the rubble.

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Over the weekend, the Royal Bahamas Police Force announced that the death toll rose to 45, including 37 from the Abaco Islands and eight from Grand Bahama, while on Friday, the United Nations said there were about 76,000 people left homeless and in need of assistance

Speaking on national television, Jackson, who has been at the helm of the regional inter-governmental agency for disaster management in CARICOM since 2013, said CDEMA had advised all of it 18 member states on this issue of evacuation and had also provided them with model evacuation plans and policies. He noted that the these had been updated with the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the damage done to the British Virgin Islands, St Martin and Dominica.

“We have recently sought to update that with the 2017 event . . . we had submitted it to CARICOM Heads of Governments and the Heads of Government supported the recommendations there. I know that the legislative process takes a while but I want to point out here is that we should not confuse mandatory evacuation with the term forced evacuations. 

"Mandatory Evacuation does not mean that you are not still going to have people elect to remain. We have seen mandatory evacuation being utilized in the United States. The point I am making here is that it is not only going to be about establishing a mandatory evacuation at all. It is going to take a closer engagement between the State and those deemed vulnerable, to better understand the psychology, if you want, behind why persons choose to stay and what are the approaches that would make them comfortable to heed the mandatory evacuation call,” he posited.

Jackson explained that in the case of The Bahamas, a large portion of the vulnerable population on the Abaco Islands was undocumented and past experience has been that persons without the relevant papers were often reluctant to evacuate to government facilities.

 

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