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JAM | Jul 8, 2024

Holness and Golding clash over Hurricane Beryl response and recovery efforts in Jamaica

Nathan Roper

Nathan Roper / Our Today

contributor
Reading Time: 3 minutes

As Jamaica recovers from Hurricane Beryl, both Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding have different takeaways.

On Wednesday, July 3rd, Beryl continued its path of death and destruction when it came into contact with Jamaica. At the time, a powerful category four storm with winds at over 165 mph and a storm surge of 6 to 12 feet would find itself grappling with a monstrous tropical cyclone.

In the aftermath, at least four deaths have been reported, with notable damage also being reported to several buildings and homes.

Critical infrastructure providers such as the National Water Commission and Jamaica Public Service were also hampered as a result of the hurricane, with several communities still not having regained access to these necessities.

The sheer scale, impact, and cost of Hurricane Beryl are still being assessed, but already two distinct narratives are being formed.

On Thursday, July 4th, while on tour of the Southern Parishes, Holness would make a statement expressing his relief and saying that the nation’s protective measures had generally stood the test and proven themselves capable.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness addresses the House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Photo: JIS)

“My sense is that generally our systems worked and that I can make that statement even without the objective analysis being done as yet,” Holness claimed.

The Prime Minister would note that the country’s efforts in legislation, leadership, usage of resources, and a proper framework had enabled a quick and robust operational capability during natural disasters and even times of calm.

However, Holness’ political rival, Mark Golding, would have a far less rosy assessment of the situation.

The leader of the opposition would criticize the Holness administration, claiming that not enough had been done and that more proactive actions were needed.

“The government needs to also be vigilant in its preparation of the people,” Golding said while touring Alligator Pond in Clarendon, a settlement initially predicted by the National Hurricane Centre to be
where Hurricane Beryl would make landfall.

“There are gullies, for example, that need to be cleaned. We need to prepare for hurricanes in a more meaningful way going forward. A whole different approach needs to be taken.”

The opposition leader would proclaim that Hurricane Beryl had served as a ‘trial run’, one that offered the opportunity for the powers-that-be to learn what needed to be changed and adjusted to better
protect the Jamaican people in the event of another storm.

Opposition Leader Mark Golding

Golding criticized what he deemed to be the slow response by government agencies to provide relief.

“I would have thought we would see more activity from the state agencies in the badly affected communities by now. I can understand a day or two of assessment, but I think we are beyond that now, and people are really starting to feel the effects of the deprivation caused by Beryl—no light, no water.”

Golding stated that while it was not his desire to politicize the issue, it was absolutely essential that a quick response be delivered to the Jamaican populace, one that, in several areas, still had not
materialized.

He called out the country’s electricity provider, the Jamaica Public Service (JPS), and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) by name as entities that had dropped the ball and needed revamping and reassessment.

By contrast, the Prime Minister has openly expressed his gratitude to JPS, ODPEM, the National Water Commission (NWC), and the country’s two main cable and wireless providers, Flow and Digicel, for their efforts to restore normalcy and standard operations to the Jamaican public.

On Saturday, July 6th, Holness, on his Instagram page, would report that the government was “closely monitoring all restoration works to ensure the country returns to normal as soon as possible,” being in
close contact and cooperating with NWC, JPS, and internet providers to ensure a speedy recovery.

That same day, JPS would announce that they had restored power to 62 per cent of the Jamaican
populace, with National Water Commission President Kevin Kerr in his own statement stating that
They had restored services to 30 per cent of their customers and were working with the Jamaica Public
Service to re-establish service to the remaining 70 percent.

Digicel would claim that 65 per cent of its network was back in action, with their “hard working teams moving about the country to quickly assess and restore service.

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