KINGSTON, Jamaica — Amid hundreds of earthquakes that have rocked the Caribbean region in the last month, the Jamaican government is to establish a National Earthquake Readiness Committee to better prepare the island for a major natural disaster.
The Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Desmond McKenzie, made the announcement recently.
“We are now prepared to take the message of earthquake to the 14 parishes of Jamaica. The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) is tasked to prepare this programme, so that we can start the conversations in our schools, in businesses across the country, in our churches, in our communities, and focus on the things that we need to do,” McKenzie said.
“We are taking a number of steps to start to engage stakeholders in the country on this issue of disaster, as it relates to earthquakes. We’re establishing a National Earthquake-readiness Committee, and this committee is to be linked to the National Disaster Council and work along with the National Building Advisory Council,” he added.
The minister said a number of well-known Jamaicans have already indicated their willingness to serve on this committee.
He stressed that it is important for this committee to be formed, as more buildings are being constructed, and more professional guidance is needed for the people involved, given that some buildings are going up in areas that are threatened by natural disasters.
The announcement comes as several Caribbean islands have been rocked by earthquakes over the past two weeks. The worst affected has been Puerto Rico, which has experienced a 5.8, a 6.4 and a 5.9-magnitude earthquake, in just one week. A state of emergency and a public health emergency has since been declared in the US territory.
While Jamaica has felt several minor tremors in recent weeks, the island has been spared from all major earthquakes. The last major earthquake in Jamaica was on January 13, 1993, which resulted in two fatalities and hundreds of residents in Kingston suffering damage to their properties.
Despite being spared in recent years, the Trinidad-based Seismic Research Centre at the University of the West Indies (UWI) warned all islands in the Caribbean to be prepared, saying that “that our region is seismically active and we always need to be prepared.”