The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) has admitted that it needs to make improvements to its response to natural disasters following the aftermath of Tropical Storm Bret.
Responding to complaints made by persons affected by the storm the organisation’s relief officer Captain Neville Wint said the ODPM was currently in the process of reviewing its handling on the situation.
He said, “As we continue to assess obviously more can be done but at this point in time I am advising citizens to still follow the 72-hour protocol.” However, Wint repeatedly noted that his organisation’s ability to manage a disaster is directed affected by the preparedness of citizens for the event.
“We have become complacent as a society and Tropical Storm Bret has awaken the appetite and understanding that we are at risk and therefore we have to take some level of responsibility for our preparedness,” Wint said.
He said the country’s preparedness was vital in the future as an increase in storms is predicted for this year’s hurricane season.
“They predict a 70 per cent likelihood of 11 to 17 of the named storms of which five to nine may become a hurricane, with two of these predicted to be major hurricanes of Category three to five,” Wint said.
He noted that in a typical season there were 12 named storms, of which six become major and three become hurricanes. Bret was the third storm during the season. Despite the issue of improvements, when asked if he and his organisation felt that T&T was ready for a major storm or hurricane, Wint said yes.
“I am of the view that we are ready but again we are only as ready as members of society are. So the plan going forward is to assess our operation to advocate for the acceptance of comprehensive disaster risk management and reduction across all sectors,” Wint said.
During yesterday’s press conference Wint sought to give statistics on persons affected by Bret, estimating that 115,000 homes and 400,000 persons were affected. While he admitted that the ODPM was still compiling statistics from the 14 regional corporations in Trinidad and the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), he noted that Tobago and south Trinidad were the most impacted.
The Penal/Debe Regional Corporation received 1,090 reports representing 80 per cent of the region, while 70 per cent of the area covered Siparia Regional Corporation was affected with 425 reports received. Wint claimed that the corporations were still receiving reports and were currently working with the Ministry of Social Development to assess the complaints and provide relief grants to those most affected.
“The Ministry of Social Development has received 1,893 reports of which 1,094 have been assessed and completed for process of allocation of grants to commence,” Wint said.
Questioned over complaints from citizens who had repeatedly been unable to contact the ODPM through the national call centre in the midst of the storm last week, Wint claimed that the centre was inundated with calls at the time.
“It was no fault of the system but the quantity of calls received. Each call had to be processed bearing in mind that persons were dealt with on an individual basis . In some cases we had to spend some additional time with some callers,” Wint claimed as he said that the ODPM would consider increasing the capacity of the centre in the future.
Wint admitted that the ODPM had received reports from citizens over issues with major rivers and waterways before the Met Office issued its tropical storm warning last weekend, but could only confirm that the reports were referred to the “relevant authorities”.
Following the passage of the storm last week, the T&T Guardian conducted an investigation which revealed that flooding caused by the Caroni River bursting its banks may have been caused by persons illegally removing large quantities of dirt plied along the banks of the river to reduce flooding.
Source: Guardian http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2017-06-28/odpm-400000-affected-brett