If a tsunami is heading towards Port-of-Spain, buses will take people from the capital city to places like the Lady Young lookout or the Northern Range which are more than 30 to 40 feet high, says the CEO of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM), Dr Stephen Ramroop. “There is a plan, and the ODPM will co-ordinate the entire event,” Ramroop assured. The Defence Force, the police, the Fire Service and ministries like National Security and Transport will also be involved in the process, he said. Outlining the basic points of the plan, he said if there is reasonable time to “egress” (and escape the tsunami), people in the city will be asked to assemble at evacuation hubs. From these north-east, north-west and south-east hubs, buses and other forms of state transportation will take people to the hills, Ramroop disclosed. “They will be taken to places like the Lady Young lookout and the Northern Range,” he said. Ramroop said a general evacuation for Port-of-Spain, in the event of a major disaster, is also well in place. “The ODPM assisted the Port-of-Spain Corporation in the development of an egress plan and an evacuation plan,” he said. “The egress plan involves leaving the city in an orderly fashion without any immediate hazardous effects.
“The evacuation plan is about leaving your cars, everything, and walking to points where you will be taken away to places of safety.”
Ramroop said all key stakeholders, like the private and public sectors, the Ministry of Education and the Port-of-Spain City Corporation were involved in putting together the evacuation plan. He noted it was a dynamic work in progress and did not require final approval from the Ministry of Education or any other agency. “According to the law, all evacuation plans for the city must be submitted to the Port-of-Spain Corporation.” He said there was a review date for the plan to look at possible shortcomings and successes. Port-of-Spain mayor Louis Lee Sing, speaking in a very low tone, said he had no comments to make. Diego Martin North/East MP Colm Imbert said as far as he knew, an evacuation plan for Port-of-Spain existed and it was a good one. “An evacuation plan was developed by Roger Israel (deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works) several years ago,” he said. “A plan exists to move people out of Port-of-Spain as quickly as possible with the least amount of trouble, and it looks good to me.”
Imbert said maybe the time had come to do an evacuation drill for the city but warned: “This is not something to be jumping to do willy-nilly. “It could cause so much disruption if it is not done properly.” Commenting on the collapsed road at Sea Lots on Wednesday, he said he did not think the authorities moved quickly enough to deal with the situation. Also noting that “the hole just appeared out of the blue,” he said what was needed was a plan to divert traffic in an orderly fashion. On second thoughts, he added, maybe the authorities did the best they could do, since they had no options. “The Beetham Highway carries 70 per cent of the vehicular load from the south and the east. “Where could you divert to? The Lady Young Road and the Eastern Main Road are incapable of carrying such load.”