Tobago prepared for ‘worst-case scenario’

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Chief Secretary Farley Augustine at a press conference on Monday at the Tobago Emergency Operations Centre, Bacolet. – David Reid

Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine has assured that all systems and agencies on the island are ready for the possible effects of a tropical storm.

On Monday, Augustine chaired an emergency meeting discussing preparations for a strong tropical wave in the Atlantic that has the potential to form into a tropical depression between Tuesday night and Wednesday. He said 90 individuals participated including members of the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and Tobago Disaster Management Committee (TDMC).

By Monday afternoon, the TT Met Office upgraded the alert level to an orange-level tropical storm warning.

Speaking with the media at the Tobago Emergency Operations centre (TEOC) in Bacolet, Augustine said: “We are ready for any possible outcomes, whatever those possible outcomes might be. We are ready so far as our preparations for whatever the outcomes are.”

He said the meteorologist has said that an average of three inches of rainfall is expected.

“If we compare that to what we got over the weekend, we got about three-quarter of an inch over this weekend. So imagine getting three inches of rainfall. Bearing in mind that we already have the earth already pretty well saturated, we know what the possible outcomes can be.”

He said in the meeting, the teams prepared for a “worst-case” scenario.

“We may not get a worst-case scenario and we pray God that we don’t but we’re preparing just in the event that that is the case.”

He said attention was given to areas prone to flooding, landslides and even transportation issues, schools and educational institutions, healthcare facilities and shelter management.

TEMA director Allan Stewart updates the public about its preparation for a possible tropical storm hitting the island. – David Reid

He assured Tobagonians that they have under control “as much as is humanly possible.”

He added, “I don’t have the hand of God and so I cannot control the weather systems; I can’t control what that would bring, and I don’t have direct control of all the agencies. But having had that firm conversation with all the necessary agencies, I would expect that all moving parts are prepared for movement should that be necessary.”

He urged citizens to remain calm.

“I don’t want individuals to panic, I don’t want you to begin to run helter skelter. You need to remain calm as we prepare all that needs to be prepared in so far as the island’s infrastructure and the island’s response mechanisms – in any case, we are in the rainy season, every Caribbean citizen should know once we approach June, you should begin to prepare your pantry for the rainy season and hurricane season. That goes without saying and that is whether or not we are adversely affected over the next 48 hours or not.”

In 2019, Tropical Storm Karen left $24 million in damage when it hit Tobago.

A number of homes were damaged and fishermen lost engines and boats.

Asked whether the THA has put aside any funds for compensation if the need arises, Augustine said: “I know that there is a belief that once someone is hard hit, someone – the government – is the only measure through which some relief would be had.

“I can assure you that we are prepared to give as much relief as is necessary, we are prepared to direct THA’s resources in that direction and if emergency requires it, emergency will get it – that goes without saying.”

TEMA’s director Allan Stewart said based on the discussions at the meeting, some clear objectives were outlined. He said the Tobago Emergency Operations Centre would go into full activation mode from 6pm on Tuesday.

“It means therefore that we’re ready for whatever may come our way in terms of co-ordination. Our business is to establish the standard operating procedures to ensure that we continue to liaise with our local partners here on the island.”

He said that there is a strong possibility that based on this event, there would be homes and burgesses impacted.

“It means therefore that the response in terms of how we respond to these effects, we expect that the population continues to ensure that they at least could take care of themselves for 72 hours.”

He said should it become exhausting in terms of resources, the disaster management system of the country will intervene.

He added: “We have pumped up the shelters in terms of the quantities to about 33. Not all 33, based on this level of event, would be required to be activated but in terms of readiness and the administrative work behind the scenes, those are the shelters we have identified – 33 shelters to be utilised if it becomes necessary.”

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