(JIS) The importance of public awareness and preparedness was highlighted during a ceremony last Friday, to mark the 110th anniversary of the 1907 Kingston earthquake that claimed more than 1,000 lives and left a trail of destruction in its wake.
The function was held at the 1907 Earthquake Monument in Bumper Hall, Greenwich Town, South West St Andrew, where 501 unidentified victims were buried.
It was organised by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) as part of activities marking Earthquake Awareness Month under the theme ‘Drop. Cover. Hold. Earthquake Readiness is Within Your Control’.
Local Government and Community Development minister, Desmond McKenzie, said commemorating the earthquake and honouring the memory of the victims should serve to push people to take safeguards against such a disaster.
The minister, in a message read by councillor for the Tivoli Gardens Division, Donovan Samuels, said that Jamaica rests on a number of faults, which renders the country vulnerable to earthquakes.
He noted that a new fault was discovered in the Kingston Harbour in 2010.
“This should cause us to take earthquake awareness very seriously,” he said.
“Our challenge, as a country, is to look again at the spaces we occupy and the building practices we engage in to ensure that we are, as best as possible, prepared for the passage, or aftermath, of an earthquake… and demonstrate that we have learnt from that experience,” McKenzie added.
He encouraged people to be more receptive of the ODPEM’s public-awareness campaign.
“I ask every Jamaican to try and learn more about their vulnerability to earthquakes… by improving our awareness and changing our way of living,” he said.
Meanwhile, Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Minister Olivia Grange, in recounting the 1907 disaster and commemorating the victims’ memory, emphasised the need for Jamaicans to be prepared for disasters.
“Let us also be reminded that earthquakes know neither colour nor creed and can lay hands on you suddenly,” she said.
For her part, Opposition Leader and Member of Parliament for South West St Andrew, where Bumper Hall is located, Portia Simpson Miller, said the monument is important in preserving a major part of Kingston’s, and Jamaica’s, history.
“While we continue to pay our respects to these victims each year, this monument is also a significant reminder to those who are alive… that natural disasters do not discriminate in their impact… they affect everyone… (and we must) be prepared for disasters of this kind,” she pointed out.
In his remarks, ODPEM’s director general, Major Clive Davis, emphasised the need for citizens to constantly bear in mind that “earthquakes have no season (and can) occur suddenly without warning”.
“We must have contingency plans in place. We know that we (ODPEM), as an organisation, have a responsibility to ensure safeguards are communicated and instituted. We also want you to know that you (citizens), too, have a responsibility to take the necessary safeguards,” he added.
Both Grange and Simpson Miller laid a wreath at the monument, following the ceremony. (Jamaica Observer)