Monday, August 20, 2007

'We're Not Leaving': Many Jamaicans Remain Put Amid Hurricane Dean

'We're not leaving'

BY VAUGHN Davis Sunday Observer staff reporter
Sunday, August 19, 2007

Residents of several flood-prone communities along the island's south-east coast were, up to yesterday afternoon, maintaining that they would not flee their homes as Hurricane Dean continued its frightening approach towards Jamaica.

"The last time (during Hurricane Ivan in 2004) I leave and go to the National Stadium (a designated shelter) it wasn't nice," a woman who identified herself only as Angela told the Sunday Observer in the seaside town of Port Royal. "No water wasn't there, garbage was in the same area, and the bathroom was messy. There was nowhere to look about yourself," she said.

She also told the Sunday Observer that during Hurricane Ivan she lost all her furniture and the roof of her house was blown off. However, this time around, she said she would be prepared.

"I'm going to hoist them (her furniture and appliances) up on some blocks, and put up some tarpaulin. Me naah leave, me a stand the risk," she said.

Another female resident who declined to be named, and who also told the Sunday Observer that she shared her small wooden home with 13 other family members, said she simply planned to secure her home and ride out the storm.

"Me not moving. I don't know about anybody else but I plan to stay here. We not doing anything more than batten down, but we are going to stay here," she said, sitting at the front of the house in the company of an elderly woman and four young children.

Yesterday morning, groups of fishermen were seen pulling in their boats from the sea, while others appeared to be going about their normal business, oblivious to the approaching hurricane. But according to one resident, Oran Hall, this was typical behaviour.

"You see, with Port Royal people, the first thing they do is get the craft (fishing boats) out of the water. And then everybody come together and batten down everybody else's house," he explained. "The last time the hurricane came and we leave here and go to the [National] Arena the treatment wasn't good, so the people decide that whatever happen they are going down with the ship."

Throughout the small town that sits on the tip of a thin spit of land across the Kingston Harbour, some concrete dwellings were spotted with pieces of plyboard nailed across their windows. Numerous small wooden structures appeared not to have been secured for the impending hurricane.

At Caribbean Terrace - the middle-class residential area between the Harbour View drive-in cinema and the Harbour View roundabout, which was also built along the coastline - the decrepit remnants of houses which were completely destroyed during the passage of Hurricane Ivan still stood as grim reminders of the destruction visited on that community in 2004. Notwithstanding, some residents resolved to batten down their homes and hope for the best.

"I'm not going to move," said Hyacinth Newton. "I don't know if I was lucky during Ivan, but this was the safest house in the area. The only thing was that the debris from the coast came up to my gate. She, however, noted that a retaining wall needed to be rebuilt between the houses and the coastline.

"There was a retaining wall, but Ivan blew it down, and they haven't put one up since," she said. "And if the damage was like that and the wall was there, imagine now without the wall."

Newton, whose house is at the top of an avenue that is approximately one quarter of a mile long and leads to the coastline, also told the Sunday Observer that her primary concern at the moment was ensuring that she could accommodate her son, who will be visiting from the United States after Hurricane Dean passed.

"My main concern is that my son is coming back from the States next week. He went away on a scholarship some four years ago and he is coming back for the first time on Tuesday," she said as she directed two men who were helping her to cover her windows with ply-board.

Two men were also seen putting board over the windows to a house that sat right beside a house by the coastline which was wrecked by Hurricane Ivan. When asked if they planned to evacuate, one replied, "We going to batten up first, then deal with the evacuation."

In the meantime, at Dalvey in St Thomas, one of the communities most likely to be hit if Dean strikes the island, residents appeared largely unperturbed.

"I haven't battened down anything yet," Imogene Thompson told the Sunday Observer yesterday afternoon. "But all I'm going to do is get my children's birth papers, and other documents."

Throughout the area, residents appeared to be going about their normal business. When the Sunday Observer visited the Dalvey Primary School, the designated emergency shelter for the area, all entrances were closed and no one was seen entering or leaving.

Thompson reasoned that because Dalvey did not suffer extensive damage during Hurricane Ivan, this could be influencing residents to be reticent about making hurricane preparations.

Yesterday, at the Yallahs ford, tractors were seen using large rocks and mounds of dirt to reinforce the banks of the Yallahs river to prevent it from overflowing its banks.

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