Monday, June 07, 2010

PM urges preparedness
Thursday, 03 June 2010

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, CMC - Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has reminded nationals of the importance of disaster management as the six month hurricane season began on Tuesday.

“Disaster management is more than just preparations for the hurricane season. It must be imbedded in aspect of our lives to ensure that our families are safe,” he said in a radio and television broadcast to mark the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season.

“While we were fortunate last year …as it was one of the least active seasons on record, with the fewest number of storms since 1997, we cannot afford to let our guards down and become complacent this year,” Gonsalves said.

He this year’s hurricane season was forecast to be “an unusually active one”, with experts saying there is a 70 per cent probability of 14 to 23 "named storms”, with top winds of 39 mph or higher.

In March, the island was placed on drought alert after experiencing lower than average rainfall since October 2009, and Gonsalves spoke of other natural and man made disasters that have affected countries around the world in recent times.

He said that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could have serious environmental and financial problems.

“One may wonder what all this mean for St Vincent and the Grenadines, and may assume that we are far removed from the many disasters being experienced in various parts of the world. However, when a disaster strikes in one place, there is a trickledown effect and economic fall off in rest of the world, since we are all interconnected,” Gonsalves said.

“It may mean job cuts and pay cuts for our friends and loved ones, little or no remittances coming home to relatives and friends, funds for programmes and projects in developing countries being diverted to assist disaster affected countries, cut backs on investments and reduction in trading, tourism, and other contributors to our economy,” he added.

Gonsalves said that the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) had noted that drought management was still a low priority regionally and had received minimum attention in the CDEMA participating states.

He said his administration had reviewed the Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) Strategy and Framework, a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) initiative designed as a response to disaster experiences in the Caribbean region.

“Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) is the management of all hazards, through all phases of the disaster management cycle — prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and rehabilitation — by all people, public and private sectors, all segments of civil society and the general population in hazard prone areas,” Gonsalves said.

“The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines will do all we can with the resources we have to ensure that the necessary training and systems are in place to reduce the likely effects of hazards such as hurricanes,” he added..

Gonsalves appealed to Vincentians to pay attention to weather advisories and follow the advice from reputable sources, noting that information on the Internet is not always generated from correct sources and “sometimes is not applicable for our local situation”.

“While we cannot prevent hurricanes and tropical storm we have the power to mitigate or reduce the likely impacts on our people and their environment.

“…I am urging all Vincentians to get as much information as possible and use the information to ensure that every family, every business, every institution, organisation, ministry and department have a plan which will provide guidance on how to prepare for hurricanes and other hazards before, during and after they occur,” he added.