By Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham
Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA)

Hurricane Gustav has been downgraded to a tropical depression following its landfall in the State of Louisiana in the United States of America yesterday where considerable destruction has been reported.

Before entering the Gulf, Hurricane Gustav impacted the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean wreaking havoc, destroying property and taking lives. We especially regret the reports of numerous deaths resulting from the storm in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Louisiana but welcome reports that no lives were lost in Cuba and the Cayman Islands.

In Jamaica, a Member State of the Caribbean Emergency Disaster Response Agency (CDERA), the Hurricane took several lives while thousands lost their homes and other property. Widespread damage and destruction of infrastructure has also been also reported.

The Coordinator of CDERA, Mr. Jeremy Collymore, has been in contact with authorities in Jamaica prior to and following the passage of the hurricane.

The resources of CDERA have been placed at the disposal of the Government of Jamaica which continues to conduct damage assessments around the island. Mr. Collymore is scheduled to visit Jamaica so as to confer with appropriate authorities and determine how best the agency might assist with the recovery process.

The Coordinator remains in constant contact with The Bahamas which is the current Chair of the Council of CDERA.

On behalf of the Council I extend condolences to the Government and people of Jamaica, most particularly to those families suffering the loss of loved ones and those injured or left homeless. I also express the Council’s solidarity with the Government and people of Jamaica and assure them that our thoughts, prayers and support are with them.

I advise that my efforts to speak personally with Prime Minister Golding have been unsuccessful due in part to his movement around affected areas but also as a result of telecommunications challenges. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made contact with the Bahamas Honorary Consul in Kingston, Mrs. Keva Hilton. To date there have been no reports of Bahamians in Jamaica being adversely affected by the storm.

I take this opportunity also to underscore advice from our National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to Bahamian residents with regard to Hurricane Hanna which is presently impacting the southern Bahamas and which is projected to move on a northwest trajectory up through our archipelago during the next several days.

We are at the height of the hurricane season. Already two other storm systems – Ike and Josephine – threaten The Bahamas. All are advised to remain alert and to follow the advice coming from NEMA with regard to storm and hurricane preparedness.

Residents will recall the serious damage caused by Tropical Storm Noel, especially in Long Island, Exuma, Cat Island and Eleuthera last year.

Residents throughout the southeastern Bahamas continue to be affected by Hurricane Hanna today. The islands in the central and southeastern Bahamas remain under Tropical Storm/Hurricane Warning and the northwest Bahamas is under Tropical Storm/Hurricane Alert.

Residents are cautioned to be especially mindful that swells and tidal surges accompanying tropical storms and hurricanes will impact coastal roadways making them dangerous to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Residents are advised to safeguard themselves in response to official advisories and if their homes are not secure against strong winds and rain, to relocate to hurricane shelters well in advance of the arrival of the storm.

Residents are also reminded to avoid contact with any fallen electrical lines during or after the passage of any storm as contact with live lines can prove fatal.