Jamaica spared the worst

AFTER some six hours of checks, officials of several ministries and State agencies used a media conference at the Office of the Prime Minister late Monday afternoon to declare that the island had emerged largely unscathed after being rocked by a 5.6-magnitude earthquake just before 11:00 am.

There were confirmed reports of surface damage to several buildings, a stairwell at the Ministry of Finance’s Heroes’ Circle head office was condemned because of cracks, while a building at Financial Investigations Division in Vineyard Town, St Andrew, was ordered abandoned based on structural problems.

A number of health facilities, schools, and other Government buildings were left with minor damage while some private businesses, particularly in the Corporate Area, suffered cracks and spills of products on shelves.

At the media briefing, representatives of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), National Works Agency (NWA), and Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) joined Prime Minister Andrew Holness and a number of his Cabinet ministers to provide assurance that the earthquake had left little damage.

Holness had earlier told the country that “generally, what we have seen is that the damage that has been assessed is not significant. We have experienced some break in electricity and communication. But the report, so far, is that most have been restored. Our airports are open, and we have not received any reports of death. So, we give God thanks for sparing us the worst. But, nevertheless, we are taking all precautions”.

That was reiterated at the afternoon media briefing with Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie, who indicated that ODPEM activated its response mechanism immediately after the tremor was felt.

He said the municipal corporations islandwide were also active in assessing damage with special focus on the infirmaries.

According to McKenzie, the review of any damage is to continue today.

“The National Disaster Response Committee will be convened tomorrow (Tuesday) morning for us to look at what took place today (Monday) and for us to make plans going forward,” said McKenzie.

He was supported by Stewart Beckford, JFB commissioner, who told the briefing that one abandoned building in downtown Kingston and another in Ramble, St Thomas, collapsed.

Beckford noted that the fire brigade responded to several calls, a number of which turned out to be false.

In the meantime, Minister of Science, Energy, Telecommunications and Transport Daryl Vaz told the media briefing that while there was a widespread power outage in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake most people had seen their electricity restored by late afternoon.

That was confirmed by Jamaica Public Service Company which stated after 5:00 pm that power supply had been restored to all customers who were affected by outages.

Vaz also noted that the island’s international airports were not impacted while public transportation operated as usual despite a build-up of traffic in sections of the Corporate Area.

It was a similar story from minister with responsibility for water Matthew Samuda, who noted that the island’s major water systems were not impacted.

According to Samuda, the checks will continue Tuesday as some of the older pipes might have been cracked or dislocated.