Monday, August 20, 2007

Dean Sparks Panic Buying in Jamaica

Dean sparks panic buying

ODPEM advises people to evacuate danger areas

BY Paul Henry Sunday Observer staff reporter
Sunday, August 19, 2007

Jamaicans crowded supermarkets and hardware stores yesterday snapping up food, water, flashlights, batteries and other emergency items as powerful Hurricane Dean moved slowly across the central Caribbean with Jamaica firmly in its sight.

Store managers at some supermarkets said they were out of non-perishable items from Friday night and were kept busy replenishing their stock to meet the needs of shoppers yesterday.

Bottled water, tinned food, and bread were among the items most purchased at supermarkets, while at some hardware stores, water tanks, and tarpaulin were sold out.

"I have already purchased some items. But the hurricane is certainly going to have some impact, so I'm adding to my stock just in case," Andre McCarty told the Sunday Observer while making his purchase at the sprawling SuperPlus food store in Cross Roads, Kingston. "After this, I'm going home to tape up the windows."

Large numbers of shoppers were at Lee's Food Fair on Red Hills Road. Some admitted that they never saw a need to make the necessary purchases until listening to news about the hurricane on Friday night.

"To tell the truth," said one woman who gave her name only as Beverley, "I never thought that the hurricane would be coming until I saw the news, so I just come out to buy the necessary stuff."

Another shopper, who gave her name only as Barbara, said, "I still feel that we are only going to get the rain and not the breeze, that is why I'm just now preparing."

However, yesterday, forecasters said that Dean could strengthen to become a monster Category 5 hurricane within 48 hours as it moved across the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea and was expected to track across Jamaica during the afternoon today.

Yesterday, Category 4 Dean had maximum sustained winds near 240 kmh (150 mph) and was moving westward near 28 kmh (17 mph). "A general west to west-northwestward motion is expected during the next 24 hours," Jamaica's Meteorological Service said in an early bulletin.

The first hurricane of the Atlantic season, Dean killed three people - a 62-year-old man in St Lucia and a woman and her seven-year-old son in Dominica - and devastated banana and sugar crops as it crossed small eastern Caribbean islands.

Yesterday, the Met Service upgraded Jamaica's hurricane watch to a hurricane warning and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) advised persons living in flood-prone areas and communities close to the sea to evacuate to safer areas by 8:00 pm.

"Communities such as Portmore, Port Royal, Caribbean Terrace, Portland Cottage, Bull Bay, New Haven and Nightingale Grove must begin evacuating immediately," the ODPEM said in a late afternoon news release.

The ODPEM also issued a mandatory evacuation order for people living in Portmore, Bull Bay and Nightingale Grove and said that the state-run Jamaica Urban Transit Company would begin facilitating transportation of evacuees to the relevant emergency shelters starting at 5:00 pm.

The police commissioner also imposed 48-hour curfews "in designated commercial and industrial areas across Jamaica" beginning at 6:00 pm yesterday until 6:00 pm tomorrow.

"During the designated hours of the curfews all persons within the boundaries of the curfews are required to remain within their premises unless otherwise authorised in writing by members of the security forces," the police said.

The areas under curfew include all parish capitals.

Yesterday, Air Jamaica announced the cancellation of flights from the island, and last night, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller was scheduled to address the nation at 8 o'clock.

The Jamaica Public Service Company said it would more than likely shut down the public power supply system "anytime after 10:00 am" today.

In addition to bottled water and non-perishable food items, Jamaicans bought water tanks, ply sheets and generators.

At QD & Ace Hardware on Red Hills Road in Kingston, manager Jason Walker told the Sunday Observer that tarpaulin, nails, hammers and other tools, screws, rope, lanterns, batteries and lumber were the main items being purchased.

"We have sold out on quite a few other items, but right now it's just chaos, so I can't even remember," said Walker, as customers swarmed him to inquire about certain items.

In the depressed community of New Haven, a 70-something year-old woman, who declined to give her name, was doing her last-minute shopping at a community grocery shop.

Her purchase: a single stick of candle and a lighter.

"Mi no have no money fi dem kind a shopping deh," she said of the heavy buying being done by others. "All I could buy is a lighter and a candle. Mi no have money fi do no shopping."

From as early as seven o'clock yesterday morning, a large crowd of people started gathering outside the National Bakery store on Half-Way-Tree Road waiting to purchase bun, bread and biscuits. At one point the police had to be called in to maintain calm.

Some drains and gullies across the Corporate Area, namely in the Waltham Park, Grants Pen and New Haven areas, were up to yesterday afternoon in need of cleaning.

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