The people of Jamaica extend deep sympathy to the people of our neighbour Haiti who are currently suffering from the effects of the earthquake and aftershocks of January 12. I have been in contact with President Rene Preval and assured him that all Jamaica is offering prayers that God’s mercy will take the Haitian people through this tragedy even as we begin to organize a practical response to their plight.
Early news reports tell us that millions of people in the capital, Port au Prince, have lost shelter and access to food and sanitation.
Jamaica has always responded immediately in whatever way we can to natural disasters in Haiti and this time will be no exception. Already the mobilization of relief supplies is underway. Contributions from the private sector as well as supplies from the office of Disaster Preparedness (ODPEM) will be sent to Haiti today. Our help will be a part of international co-ordinated efforts to move food and medical supplies into the country and also to assist Jamaican and Caricom nationals to return home.
In the next few days, after search and rescue teams have evaluated the physical environment to be stable, we will dispatch members of the Jamaica Defence Force to participate in reconstruction efforts that will enable basic infrastructure of electricity, water and telecommunications to function again.
The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) will shortly announce the kinds of donations in cash and kind that are needed as well as the bank accounts and locations to make these donations. Any help will go a far way to ease the pain of the survivors in the shortest possible time and I urge Jamaicans to be generous.
Our island is also prone to multiple natural hazards, including earthquakes, and I remind Jamaicans to follow the national standards for constructing buildings that will make more homes, schools and places of work safe.
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