PM: I have confidence in NEMA

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday that he has confidence in the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and reiterated that the agency will be restructured in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.

“I have confidence in NEMA,” Minnis said.

“You must remember that this is a storm that was never ever seen before so they had to work with what they had under the conditions that was presented to them.”

On Sunday, the prime minister announced the formation of the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, Recovery and Reconstruction — a new ministry.

The new ministry will work with NEMA in the “pre-positioning of hurricane relief stores, foodstuff, water and supplies; [and the] pre-positioning of life rafts, life jackets, generators, chainsaws, jet skis, tools and heavy equipment and other material to provide immediate services to affected areas.”

Minnis further stated the ministry will also work with NEMA for “consultation and training of residents in vulnerable communities”.

The opposition said the new ministry is another layer of bureaucracy and an example of waste.

NEMA, which operates under the authority of the Cabinet Office, is tasked with the country’s disaster management. It is responsible for mitigation planning, community preparedness, disseminating information regarding disasters to the public and recovery co-ordination.

The prime minister said yesterday that the government will restructure NEMA to ensure that it becomes “even better than before”.

“You learn a lot,” he said.

“We have learned a lot from this disaster. We have learned a lot from the international agencies that were here.

“They were very impressed with our organization. But still, you take it to another level because the storms we saw yesterday will not be the storms we see tomorrow.

“There was some critics who said we did not respond fast enough. We knew the storm [was] coming. We communicated with all the international agencies. The Americans had their helicopters and supplies sitting in Andros. They also had helicopters and supplies sitting in Exuma, only waiting for the storm to move past Abaco so that they could be dispatched immediately.”

The prime minister said the U.S. was delayed in getting into Abaco because Dorian sat over Grand Bahama and some of its bands were still on the island.

Some Bahamians expressed frustration with NEMA’s distribution of aid during and after Dorian.

But NEMA Spokesperson Carl Smith has called on the public to be patient.

“We are dealing with a disaster,” he said.

“Unfortunately, patience is running out. We are begging the public. They will be serviced.”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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