Minister Lake says concrete actions to be taken after a review of Disaster Management Planning and Response

Minister of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning and Infrastructure (Ministry VROMI) Hon. Maurice Lake says the Monday meeting in the Dr. A. C. Wathey Legislative Hall with various stakeholders in disaster planning has led to concrete actions being drafted to be taken.

In the wake of the recent torrential rainfall event early November and Hurricane Gonzalo mid-October, outgoing Minister of VROMI Hon. Maurice Lake said he wanted to address a number of areas where he saw room for improvement and wanted to hear from the stakeholders how these could be better addressed and dealt with prior to the next hurricane season or weather related event.

Also attending was Vice Prime Minister/Minister of Justice Hon. Dennis Richardson who spoke about his experience with Hurricane Luis and Marilyn in 1995.

Minister Lake chaired the meeting.  During the discussion it was stated that the country’s water management infrastructure (trenches, drains) were built to alleviate flooding and not to prevent flooding.
The trenches and waterways were built according to UNESCO study recommendations based on 20, 50 and 100 year storm scenarios.

The country’s drainage plans need to be reviewed and building on hillsides as well as near drains and waterways need to be looked at when it comes to spatial planning.

“My ministry is reviewing the national drainage plan and will be presenting to the Council of Ministers a revised plan along with a budget in order to start to address these challenges.  UNESCO reports made a number of recommendations and we need to implement these and making sure the available financial resources is there to execute the projects.

“Funding allocation for the post disaster phase will also be addressed in a structural manner along with a quick disbursement of funds to contractors who assists with the clean-up.

“Internal and external communication are other areas to be addressed as well.  The shortcomings due to infrastructure failure and the use of other communication avenues will be explored and executed.

“Public complacency was also discussed and how to address this will also be executed by the respected government agency.  NV GEBE will work closely with Ministry VROMI to address challenges that were confronted with flooding where certain parts of NV GEBE infrastructure were partially submerged.

“The Marine Trades Association also made a valuable contribution where they spoke about vessels that needed to enter the Simpson Bay Lagoon and where these vessels should be moored within the Lagoon.  A plan is also needed on how this should be done and where, and timely communication with mariners with respect to bridge openings.  A mandatory vessel evacuation plan will also be reviewed.

“It was a very constructive meeting with an outcome of what actions need to be taken to address the challenges that were confronted in two weather related events.

“Disaster Coordinator Clive Richardson also informed the group that the new Council of Ministers will receive a presentation about the national Disaster Management system.  I am very pleased with the meeting and we achieved a lot,” Minister Hon. Maurice Lake concluded.

Represented at the meeting were officials from Office of Disaster Management, Disaster Coordinator, Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth & Sports, NV GEBE, Ministry VROMI, Meteorological Department of Sint Maarten, Department of Communication, and the St. Maarten Marine Trades Association.