Thursday, January 18, 2018
Wednesday, 10 January 2018 07:38

Hundreds flee Old Harbour Bay amidst Tsunami advisory

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At about 4:00 am today many residents gather in the Old Harbour town centre At about 4:00 am today many residents gather in the Old Harbour town centre Photo: OH News

A massive earthquake off the coast of Honduras and the possibility of a Tsunami hitting several other countries, including Jamaica, caused panic among some residents of Old Harbour Bay.

Old Harbour News was reliably inform that from as early as 1:00 am, residents started to leave the south west St Catherine coastal town after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit the region between Honduras and the Cayman Islands.

By 3:00 am hundreds of residents were streaming out of the community of approximately 5,000 inhabitants, as news began circulating that a Tsunami is imminent.

However, such a warning was not coming from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM). Neither did the Tsunami alert system, based in the community, was activated.

Just before midnight Prime Minister Andrew Holness had also informed the country via Twitter that “Jamaica is officially not under threat from a Tsunami”.

Yet many residents took the personal decision to evacuate, leaving nothing to chance.

A small crowd had already congregated at the entrance of the Old Harbour High School when Old Harbour News visited the area at about 4:00 am today.

The Old Harbour town centre was buzzing with life, as many converge near the police station. Many with personal belongings in hand, sat along the main road leading into the community.

“It betta wi lef now than it ketch wi down de,” one woman shouted. “A so when God a come nuff a dem naah go ready.”

Many persons were on their phones talking to family members and friends, informing them of the news that had struck fear into their hearts.

Mi nuh believe se anything ago happen,” another woman said. “But everybody a move, so mi move to.”

Evacuees congregated at the entrance of the Old Harbour High School

Some residents also stayed put.

“Mi a gwaan stay man,” said Garfield. “Mi a gwaan watch and si how tings a go first. Mi nuh hear di ting (siren) go off all now or si nobody come down yah and se wi fi move out. So mi a gwaan watch it still.”

The community is amenable to potential disasters with authorities conducting many simulation drills in recent years gone by. And it could be argued that the decisive manner in which many evacuated is testament of their readiness.

In a brief chat with Old Harbour News, Cllr. Lloyd Grant said it was difficult to convince the evacuees that the country was not under a Tsunami threat because their minds were already made up.

An officer on duty at the Old Harbour Police Station said they were also aware of the situation but cannot force residents to return home.

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