Shelters Ready But Island’s Readiness is Cause for Concern
While shelters most likely won’t be needed for the passing of Tropical Storm Beryl, based on its current trajectory, they are ready to be put to use, says His Excellency Governor Andy Pearce. However, Montserrat still has several major issues which need to be rectified.
Governor Pearce gave an update to the press on Saturday afternoon following the recently concluded meeting of the National Disaster Preparedness Response Advisory Committee (NDPRAC), which is comprised of key senior government officials, including the governor, premier, MVO and the police.
He said he was grateful that the latest reports show the storm tracking well to the South of Montserrat and expected winds in the 50mph range which he has come to see does not raise any alarms for residents.
The governor added that the DMCA has been working since the last hurricane season to prepare the designated 12 hurricane shelters and they are in working order and can manage about 300 people collectively.
However, Montserrat is not where it needs to be in terms of its preparedness at this point in the hurricane season. He said his office, in tandem with the relevant departments, are tackling five key areas.
The first being, non-electrical supplies and equipment for the shelters, including cots, First Aid kits and water pumps. Totalling about 300,000 US dollars, these supplies are to managed by the DMCA once they arrive on island.
Second, electrical supplies including generators are also to be procured. However, there has been a delay in the process as they were working to establish the various power supplies and correct voltage needed for the locations.
Governor Pearce said communications can be a nightmare in emergency situations and Montserrat is no exception. Montserrat currently does not have enough emergency radios, and base stations are not where they need to be. The UK Government under the Hurricane Prepardness Plan for the Caribbean overseas territories is providing technical support to assess the island’s communications needs.
The fourth priority area is the national radio station infrastructure. The governor said EC$500,000 has been allocated to purchase a relay for Garibaldi Hill and strengthen the transmission tower on Silver Hills.
The fifth area is the personnel coordination to ensure that teams know what they are to do and everyone has shared their relevant contact information.
The governor said they are aware of the vulnerabilities and are working to address them. However, he was not optimistic that the communication challenges would be fully rectified in the coming weeks but rather saw an end of the hurricane season date as the most probable.
This is Governor Pearce’s first hurricane season on island.