Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bradley Roberts - Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) chairman raises National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) concerns after Grand Bahama tornado

Tribune Staff Reporter

THE National Emergency Management Agency has come under fire for its failure to effectively issue warnings and respond to the Grand Bahama tornado on Monday.

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) chairman Bradley Roberts has raised concerns about NEMA's lack of resources in Grand Bahama and the Family Islands as well as insufficient training and systems in place to prepare for and respond to dangerous weather in the future.

The tornado that struck Grand Bahama at around 11.30am on Monday claimed the lives of three maintenance workers who were trapped in a 400 ft gantry crane that came crashing down and was submerged in the water at the Freeport Container Port (FCP).

Several others were injured and witnesses said they had little or no warning to seek protection from the storm.


Although weather warnings were issued in South Florida early Monday morning, and a meteorological observer in Grand Bahama alerted a forecaster at the Met Office in Nassau to issue a public tornado warning for the island, a breakdown in protocol meant the warning was not issued.

Environment Minister Earl Deveaux maintains the staff responsible will face consequences for the breach.

However he maintains the port was aware of the severe weather approaching and a warning would not have changed the devastating outcome.

"No warnings or lack thereof could be blamed for the horrible and fatal consequences," Dr Deveaux said.

"All of us are deeply affected by the fatal and destructive events."

Now Mr Roberts has detailed further actions that he says should have been taken to minimise the tornado's impact on Grand Bahama.

He said NEMA should have immediately posted public warnings, closed schools, appointed an incident commander to oversee a search and rescue operation and damage assessment.

A hotline and public information centre for those affected should have also been established, as well as a counselling service and crisis information centre, Mr Roberts said.

According to the PLP chairman, NEMA thrived under the PLP administration as it accelerated the development of a national emergency plan and invested in a number of intensive training on damage assessment and emergency response.


However the organisation has since suffered under the FNM as programmes were not sustained and there has been no national training for three years, he said.

Mr Roberts further laments the lack of NEMA offices in any of the Family Islands where there should be establishments and people in place to provide an emergency response.

Director of NEMA Captain Stephen Russell did not respond to these allegations before The Tribune went to press.

However Mr Roberts ultimately holds Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham accountable when NEMA falls short.

"As a result of this government's petty partisan policies and its commitment to destroy 'Christie programmes', NEMA was a total failure to the people of Grand Bahama during their hour of need," Mr Roberts said.

"A day later the above mentioned plans have still not been done or even started; this is indeed a classic case of a disaster within a disaster.

"The people of Grand Bahama must hold Mr Ingraham and the FNM government accountable for its failure to provide all the safety mechanisms to ensure mitigation against lost of life, property and unnecessary grief and suffering."

April 01, 2010