Post cabinet briefing for Sept. 8, 11 released
Basseterre, St. Kitts – The formal meeting of the cabinet took place on Sept. 8 and Sept. 11. The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister the Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris. Here are the salient matters discussed at that meeting:
Friday, Sept. 8
Cabinet met on Sept. 8 to receive a post-Hurricane Irma update and to plan for the pending Hurricane José.
- The chair of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) provided the information that 90 percent of water supply to homes had been restored. However, due to lack of electricity in some areas, pumps were non-functional and that would have affected some areas in terms of water distribution. Minister Richards reported that only one person remained in a designated shelter and that almost all of the affected houses had been covered with tarpaulin provided by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the St. Kitts-Nevis Red Cross. He was appreciative of the manner in which the district teams, including volunteers, had operated throughout the crisis. Generally, the public had heeded the warnings and advisories and, barring any damage from Hurricane José, the country was in a relatively good position when compared to some of the neighbouring islands.
- The Hon. Minister of Agriculture Eugene Hamilton provided a preliminary estimate on the number of farms that had been affected by Hurricane Irma. However, a final assessment had not yet been completed. Crops and fruit trees were severely impacted.
- Cabinet considered preparations in anticipation of Hurricane José and it was agreed that independence celebrations would be scaled down in order for ]people] to concentrate on recovery and relief efforts. The details of the revised calendar would be announced in a subsequent national broadcast by the prime minister.
- It was decided by cabinet that schools in the federation would re-open for the start of the new school year on Monday, September 11, 2017, weather permitting.
- The cabinet noted an offer from the government of St. Lucia re: post-Hurricane Irma technical assistance to speeding up our national recovery efforts in the restoration of water and electricity supply to residences and businesses in the federation. As such, a team from St. Lucia’s national electricity company, LUCILEC, would arrive in the country over the weekend.
Monday, Sept. 11
Cabinet met on Sept. 11 to (a) have a continued national assessment of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma; (b) consider the plight of our Caribbean neighbours who were badly affected by the storm, and what can practically be done for them in terms of humanitarian outreach; and (c) determine effective outreach to our citizens living in these hurricane affected areas.
- The minister of public infrastructure, the Hon. Ian Liburd, provided the cabinet with an interim assessment of post-Hurricane Irma recovery efforts. Minister Liburd noted that almost 100 percent of water reconnections were already done. He also informed the cabinet that there were a number of areas still without power. These areas include Bayfords, parts of Keys, Ottley’s Level, and Bellevue to Newton Ground.
- The issue of resumption of our regular ferry service between St. Kitts and Nevis was also discussed, as all of our vessels were either at Marina Telca in New Guinea, St. Kitts or in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Charters of some of these ferries were being considered regarding transportation of our citizens wishing to return home. The boats were also being looked at re: the transfer of relief supplies. However, a discussion with the director general of the OECS indicated that transportation for the time being is restricted to air transport, given the number of sunken ships in the harbours of affected territories that may make navigation perilous.
- Out of concern for the plight of our brothers and sisters in hurricane-affected areas such as Saba, St. Eustatius (Statia), St. Barthélemy (St Barth), St. Maarten/ St. Martin, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), a team led by the Hon. Mark Brantley travels on Thursday Sept. 14 to Anguilla and St. Maarten. The Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris will travel to Anguilla on Wednesday, Sept. 13, as part of the OECS Monetary Council’s delegation.
- The government noted the privately funded effort underway to evacuate Indian nationals from St. Maarten to St. Kitts. The minister of foreign affairs has been contacted by the Indian High Commissioner based in Guyana, who has requested the humanitarian assistance of the government of St Kitts and Nevis. This effort is intended to allow the entry of these Indian nationals into St Kitts and Nevis for their transit onwards to their home country via the Robert Llewellyn International Airport. This has become necessary since the airport facilities in St. Maarten are not yet functional. The cabinet agreed that although this initiative is considered humanitarian, there will be no relaxation of our immigration policies.