More aid for Diego
By Clint Chan Tack Friday, August 17 2012
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Trinidad and Tobago Olympian, Roger Daniel, left,presents a hamper to one of the many victims of the disastrous floods in west Trinidad at a distribut...
GOVERNMENT is intensifying its relief and rebuilding efforts in the Diego Martin region in the wake of last weekend’s devastating floods. This is being done through the provision of more financial grants, more manpower on the ground and medical care for persons in need.
Minister in the Ministry of Finance Vasant Bharath, National Security Minister Jack Warner and Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan yesterday outlined Government’s heightened efforts at the post- Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, as showers descended on the Northern Range again.
Bharath acknowledged concerns from residents about the delays in processing financial grants, the quantum of those grants and problems to access grants where persons have lost forms of identification.
“At Cabinet, it was discussed that we would speed up the delivery of all the grants that are available to householders. That would include the household grant, food grant and of course there were a couple with regards to funeral grants, goods and appliances and so on,” Bharath said. He added Cabinet will “look at giving further grants than we normally do.”
After disclosing there have been daily meetings at the Diego Martin Regional Corporation (DMRC) to assess the relief exercise, Warner said additional teams were sent out yesterday to visit people who have not been seen “to find out what their needs are.”
“I have spoken to the Chief of Defence Staff who has made more soldiers available,” he disclosed.
Warner also said he spoke with a scavenging contractor who has made more than 250 pieces of equipment available “at a moment’s notice” to clear the streets and pick up garbage. He said 45 persons have been relocated to other accommodation and “over 115 (persons) have been seen and are being given critical equipment to fix their homes.”
Noting Government’s ongoing efforts in Diego Martin continue to receive political criticism, Warner quipped, “ We have passed that stage. We have no intention of answering them. We shall do what we have to do restore normalcy to the lives of the people of Diego Martin and environs.”He gave the assurance that “ we will not discriminate in any way whatsoever against anybody who is in need of help.”
Warner then criticised Opposition Leader and Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley, claiming that Rowley’s constituency office at the corner of La Horquette Road and Carenage Main Road was closed and not being used to help his constituents. He scoffed that if Rowley “could have made the office open more and talk less, he would be an asset to this relief measure.”
While noting he worked with Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne last Saturday to help Browne’s constituents, Warner claimed the Opposition PNM finds “comfort in criticism” and made reference to Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert without mentioning him by name.
“Over five feet of water in some of the river courses in Diego Martin and you have a four foot, six inch former minister of works and infrastructure talking about river beds and what he has seen. He could not see that height of water,” Warner scoffed.
After saying Government takes the Opposition’s criticisms with a pinch of salt “because it is their work that they criticise,” Warner disclosed that Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie would be bringing the land policy to Cabinet in September. Saying this policy would especially “regulate the building of houses on the hillside,” Warner rejected arguments from Rowley, Imbert and Browne that Government’s failure to clear water courses in the Diego Martin region was a significant contributor to last weekend’s floods. Warner, who was works minister before the Cabinet reshuffle on June 22, countered those arguments by saying houses were “collapsing on the hillside.”
Asked by Newsday whether the country is prepared to deal with a natural disaster of any kind or magnitude, Warner said, “We are much more prepared now than we have ever been before. The response by mid-morning on Saturday (in Diego Martin) we had every piece of equipment, all the workers, all the different agencies on the ground and this is unprecedented.”
Saying those activities were coordinated by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Managament (ODPM) and the DMRC, Warner added the country does have a national disaster plan in place but did not provide any details about it.
Khan said he received a report yesterday about the number of places in the Diego Martin region that have been sprayed by insect vector control to prevent any incidents of dengue taking place. Apart from these efforts, Khan stated, “The doctors are on board and we have set up clinics in the various shelters.”
After saying public health inspectors remain active in the region to regularly assess the situation,
Khan said, “I also have a commitment from the Indian nationals (health volunteers) who tend to roam the country that they will be going there on Sunday and the Red Cross will be setting up a camp so they can see as many people as they can.” He added efforts are also underway to obtain any medication needed to treat ailments which residents may have.
Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed praised the efforts of governmental and non- governmental organisations to help “our brothers and sisters of Diego Martin and other areas affected by the floods over the last weekend.” Mohammed encouraged citizens to continue to help in whatever way they could and said, “the Prime Minister and the Cabinet continue to monitor what is happening in Diego Martin.”