There are very few institutions which can say they have been around longer than T&T has been a Republic.
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As the criticism over why there was slow, poor or no response in some cases to the recent nationwide flooding continued yesterday, the Office of Disaster Preparedness Management (ODPM) attempted to distribute some of the responsibility by pointing fingers at the regional corporations.
In attempting to explain why there may have been no response to some calls for help, ODPM second in command, Capt Neville Wint, told the T&T Guardian that affected people were lodging complaints with them because phones were ringing with no answer at regional corporations. He, however, noted that at the ODPM there are no issues with their call centre lines—800 ODPM, 511 or 999.
“Our emergency numbers, the people are getting through with but there are some issues with the regional corporations’ numbers. I am being told that they are not being answered…the phones are said to be ringing but on our end (ODPM) the calls are cued and answered,” Wint said.
He added: “When we receive the information we now have to have it transmitted to the regional corporations for assessment and action.”
Meanwhile, information via the ODPM’s social media platforms picked up from Sunday, with citizens receiving frequent updates and information regarding flooding and relief efforts.
Contacted on this claim, however, Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein questioned if Wint was sure what he was talking about. Hosein countered that he was getting good reports on an hourly basis from the ministry’s disaster relief management co-ordinator Rishi Siew.
“Up to today (yesterday) I have been collecting relief items from the corporate citizens to give out to affected people and Rishi has been giving me updates from all 14 regional corporations because he is in constant contact with them,” Hosein said.
Siew, who was with Hosein at the time of the T&T Guardian’s call, also denied Wint’s statement.
“All the emergency numbers at the regional corporations are fully functional. In fact just today (yesterday) I contacted six regional corporations via their 800 numbers and all were answered and I got all the necessary information I needed for my report. In fact, furthermore, I myself use the numbers everyday to contact officers.”
Hosein expressed full confidence in Siew and the regional corporations’ relief efforts.
“Since after Tropical Storm Bret and now, I have found Siew very efficient and I have full confidence in him than anybody else…I’m sure you can read between the lines.”
Meanwhile, with an active tropical wave approaching the southern Windward Islands, T&T is expected to experience light to moderate showers with a 30 to 40 per cent chance of heavy showers or thunder showers in a few areas.
According to meteorologist Bagwandeen Ramdatt, the main area of activity is forecast to remain north and east of T&T. Street/flash flooding is also likely in areas of heavy or prolonged downpours and gusty winds may accompany thunder showers.
In preparation for this continued weather activity, Wint yesterday assured the ODPM is well prepared.
“We have been in contact with the DMUs in the regional corporations and they have been briefed in keeping with the Met Office bulletin. On taking the necessary preventative measures to warn people and activate their systems, we are asking people to be vigilant and go with the advice issued and given in responding to possible flooding,” he said.
Asked about the pending shake-up of the ODPM announced by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Wint said he had no comment.
“The PM and the Minister of National Security has expressed their position on what is to be taken and I am subject to that statement,” Wint said.
Following a tour of Sangre Grande and Mayaro on Sunday, Rowley came down on the ODPM’s deputy chief executive officer Dave Williams for the failure of the body’s disaster response mechanism last Wednesday, when floods first began affecting citizens.
EMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBERS
ODPM’s Customer Care Centre at 511 or 999 or 800-ODPM (6376)
Regional Corporation (Disaster Management Unit) Hotline Numbers
Diego Martin Regional Corporation: 800-DMRC (3672)
San Juan/Laventille Regional Corporation: 800-SLRC (7572)
Arima Borough Corporation: 800-2ABC (2222)
Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation: 800-TPRC (8272)
Port-of-Spain City Corporation: 800-PSCC (7722)
Sangre Grande Regional Corporation: 800-SGRC (7472)
Chaguanas Borough Corporation: 800-DCBC (3222)
Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation: 800-CTTC (2882)
Mayaro/Rio Claro Regional Corporation: 800-4MRC (4672)
Princes Town Regional Corporation: 800-PTRC (7872)
Point Fortin Borough Corporation: 800-PFCB (7322)
San Fernando City Corporation: 800-SCDU (7238)
Penal/Debe Regional Corporation: 800-PDRC (7372)
Siparia Regional Corporation: 800-4SRC (4772)