STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE PRIME MINISTER OF ST. KITTS AND NEVIS

THE HON. DR. TIMOTHY HARRIS

Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017

INITIAL OBSERVATIONS FOLLOWING THE PASSAGE OF HURRICANE IRMA

My Fellow Citizens and Residents of St. Kitts and Nevis:

Our country has been rather blessed and fortunate to have been spared the extreme ravages of Hurricane Irma. We thank God for life, and for His unending mercies.

I must record sincere gratitude and commendations to our security forces and other essential service employees who sacrificed the comfort of their homes and time with their families to do the nation’s business. Our police and defence force officers have rendered yeoman service throughout this ordeal. There have been no reports of looting and we would wish that such be maintained, therefore the security forces would remain on high alert. Our fire and rescue officers deserve special mention for their efforts at road clearing and assistance to homeowners. I also commend the response of our Ministry of Public Infrastructure, [which] has been working tirelessly to get us back to a state of normalcy. In this regard, I am pleased to report that our island main road is completely passable and work is apace to restore ancillary roads. I am also advised by our water engineer that as at 6 p.m., 60 percent of our island’s water supply has been restored and it is expected that the remainder will be re-connected in short order.

I must further advise that all civil servants [were] required to report for duty Thursday at their normal times. Teachers [were] asked to report to their respective schools for further guidance from heads. Students should remain at home until further notice.

The various members of National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) and the staff of NEMA must also be thanked and praised for providing manpower to the committee that was activated within the past 24 hours. The first shift worked throughout the night, starting [at] 5 p.m. [Tuesday] and ending at 7 p.m. [Wednesday] evening. We experienced an excellent show of volunteerism, and for this we thank our public servants, NGO community and private citizens. In essence, our people, as a whole responded well to all of the advisories and information presented to them for their own safety and security. This high level of responsiveness helped to mitigate what could have been a catastrophe.

The cabinet wishes to note that although we were very well prepared for the passage of Hurricane Irma, this experience has provided us with invaluable insights regarding best practices to implement before, during and after a storm.

Initial reports from the NEOC and the local health sector indicate that there has been no loss of life. However, some three emergency evacuations were conducted by our security forces in the areas of Molineux, Keys and Conaree. We are also aware that several residents sustained significant damage. Our latest report reveals that only six [peope] remain[ed] in our hurricane shelters.

While it would be premature to place an assessment figure on the quantum of damage to property and infrastructure as a consequence of the passage of Hurricane Irma, NEMA’s Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis Committee has been deployed and we await their findings. Power outages have also been experienced in a number areas, due to a number of downed electricity poles. We regret the inconvenienced caused to affected persons. I have been advised by the minister of public infrastructure that the R L Bradshaw International Airport will be open by midday [today]. Cargo operations will also resume at midday [today] at the air and sea ports’ transit sheds. Weather permitting, an underwater assessment will be done at the sea port to determine the resumption in vessel operations at the various berths.

I am reliably informed by the senior minister and premier of Nevis, the Hon. Vance Amory, that our sister island has emerged from Hurricane Irma without major damage. An assessment is being conducted on the coastal zones to evaluate the extent of any damage.

Before I close, I must offer my government’s care and concern for our Caribbean neighbors, who faced significant impact by Hurricane Irma. These jurisdictions include Anguilla, St. Bart, St. Maarten, Barbuda, the USVI and the British Virgin Islands. My government extends the hand of friendship and support to the governments and people of these neighbouring islands.

We must also thank those international agencies who are reaching out to us in the wake of the storm and are standing ready to assist wherever possible, based on the confirmation of our specific needs across the federation.

I should also thank my colleague heads of government in the region who have reached out to us in a show of care and concern for our nation: Prime Minister the Hon Allan Chastanet of St. Lucia; the Right Hon. Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada; and the Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica. Regional agency heads have also been in touch with us, including the director general of the OECS Dr. Didacus Jules and CARICOM Secretary General Edwin Laroque. For this, we are grateful.

My fellow citizens and residents: As Hurricane Irma continues its journey away from our federation, I implore you not to take our individual and collective safety and security for granted.

In closing, I also wish to note that the federal cabinet fully support the overwhelming public sentiment that our nation has been spared from what would otherwise have been a catastrophic outcome from Hurricane Irma and, as such, we are obligated to give thanks to God for His abundant mercies and providence. Accordingly, I have asked the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs to coordinate a national service of praise and thanksgiving in collaboration with the religious bodies in the federation.

As we journey through the recovery process, and the rest of the 2017 hurricane season, for that matter, I wish to again encourage all of our citizens and residents to look out for our neighbours and remember that we are our brother’s keeper, in good times and in bad. Our goal is to preserve life and reduce the likelihood of risk and damage to property.

May Almighty God continue to bless the people of St. Kitts and Nevis as we continue through the rest of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season.

 

Editor’s note: This notice, dated Wednesday, was not received by the Observer until today, Thursday, at 10:56 a.m.