Jamaica, Haiti prepare for Tomas

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Although Tomas has been downgraded to a tropical depression, the hurricane watch issued for Jamaica on Tuesday remains in effect.

The National Hurricane Centre in Miami reported yesterday morning that Tomas, which had reached Category 2 strength over the weekend, now has maximum sustained winds of 35 miles per hour. However, it said the system was not dying.

“Restrengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours,” it said, adding that Haiti, the Dominican Republic and southeastern Cuba should also monitor the progress of Tomas since it could pose a significant threat to those areas later in the week.

Jamaicans have been put on alert to expect Tomas’ rains and hurricane force winds to affect them soon.

“Although Tomas has further weakened over the past six hours, there has been little change to the forecast track and hurricane-force winds are still expected to re-develop as the system changes direction. With this in mind, outer bands should begin to affect southern and northeastern parishes of Jamaica within 24 hours, while Tomas is expected to be closest to the island on Friday morning,” the Meteorological Service of Jamaica said yesterday morning.

Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Jackson, said the agency is monitoring the progress of the system and has urged the public to remain calm.

“I know that there is some amount of anxiety. I want to advise the public to use this opportunity to review any family disaster plans or any mechanism that they have in place,” said Jackson.

Junior Minister for Local Government Robert Montague said all emergency agencies have been put on full alert.

In Haiti, approximately 7,850 Haitians residing in a relocation camp built in Corail-Cesselesse as a result of the January 12 earthquake have been asked by the government to evacuate.

“We’re asking people in Corail to voluntarily move from where they are and go to the houses of family or friends. The places the government has identified are churches and schools that are available for shelter from the storm,” said Haiti’s civil protection official, Abel Nazaire.

In addition to the January 12 earthquake, the nation is currently recovering from an outbreak of cholera.

“This is absolutely what the county does not need right now,” said Imogen Wall, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“It’s tragedy after tragedy. We are managing three large-scale responses simultaneously,” Wall added.

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