Jensen La Vende
STATE AGENCIES are ready for any disaster that may befall Trinidad and Tobago after being hit by a tropical wave.
The assurance came from a ministerial team at a media conference on Tuesday where government ministers again reminded citizens to do what they can to protect themselves and property.
The ministerial team comprised the Ministries of Rural Development and Local Government, Works and Transport, National Security and Public Utilities, supported by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM).
Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi said all community centres along with both north and south performing arts academies, Naparima Bowl, Gulf City, Brian Lara Stadium and the Parkade at the Government Plaza will be manned by municipal police for those living in flood-prone areas to park their vehicles.
A list of all shelters was circulated on Tuesday. Al-Rawi said shelters that are not schools had been opened, some as early as Monday. He added that schools that are to be used as shelters were not yet prepared, but in the event that is needed the public will be alerted.
Communications Minister Symon de Nobriga, along with Al-Rawi, said information would be disseminated to the public in a timely manner.
Al-Rawi called on the population to avoid spreading fake news and encouraged reliance on trustworthy sources, especially government channels.
On Monday the Ministry of Education announced it was closing all primary and secondary schools except for students sitting CSEC or CAPE exams. Al-Rawi said if schools are to remain closed for longer the Education Ministry will advise the public.
On Tuesday, all government offices closed at noon and some private businesses also closed early. Government said it was considering reintroducing working from home, depending on the severity of the impact of the storm.
Outpatient clinics at hospitals and health centres were ordered closed until further notice. All Accident and Emergency departments, inpatient services, and emergency ambulance services were to remain open and operational.
At the media conference, Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan said the ferry to Tobago was suspended until further notice from Wednesday while the last water taxi to San Fernando was scheduled to leave Port of Spain at 2 pm on Tuesday.
Sinanan said the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) was instructed to keep running for as long as possible on Tuesday, keeping in mind that some workers needed to get home. He added that a core team was in place in the event the PTSC needed to move large crowds. He also called on private transport providers to step up and help get crowds to their homes.
Al-Rawi said those living in flood-prone areas should also move their electrical appliances and equipment to higher ground. He called on people to be each other’s keepers as they helped themselves.
CEO of the ODPM Maj Gen Rodney Smart allayed fears of a shortage of sandbags distributed by regional corporations. He said the ODPM has a reserve, so when regional corporations run out, it will fill the gap.
Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales, who is also acting as National Security Minister, said everything was being done to protect citizens and there was no need at this time for any curfew.
“There is a plan, the plan is rolling out, and the people of Trinidad and Tobago must feel very comforted that the agencies of the State have all been mobilised to respond to this impending emergency. And therefore there is absolutely no need for the implementation for a state of emergency or a curfew in order to address this situation.”
Asked about those who may have been inclined to host and attend storm parties, Al-Rawi said common sense should deter them.
“Take this seriously, please, let’s get this right. I don’t think admonition beyond common sense is needed at this time.”
Sinanan said all his divisions are ready for the aftermath of the storm.
“I have been assured that all pump sites have working pumps and they are being monitored. All divisions are ready, the highway division, drainage and the bridge and landslides division are all activated. We are in a position to respond to any disaster that may occur.”
Al-Rawi, asked about the cost of the various agencies readying themselves, said that could not be calculated at this time but could be done after the storm passed.
He called on his political opponents to set aside their differences at this time, addressing specifically Dr Allen Sammy, chairman of the Penal/Debe Regional Corporation, who earlier this year complained of not having sufficient funds to buy diesel.
Al-Rawi said state agencies are allowed to use existing funds to pay for equipment and services during cases of emergency.
He said regional corporations were distributing sandbags, as well as officials of the Housing Development Corporation, in communities that were affected by flooding in the past.
Met Office: Not official tropical storm yet
Meteorologist Gary Benjamin on Tuesday said the tropical wave had a chance of up 90 per cent of developing into a storm which will directly affect the country.
On Tuesday afternoon the Met Office said it would not refer to the weather system as “Bonnie,” the scheduled name for the next Atlantic storm or hurricane. At 11am on Tuesday it said the disturbance, PTC2, was moving west at 37km/h. They are classed as tropical storms when winds reach 63 km/h. When winds reach speeds of or above 119 km/h the storm is classified as a tropical cyclone.