KINGSTON, Jamaica — Jamaicans are today thankful that a tsunami did not hit the Caribbean after one of the strongest earthquakes in modern times struck the region last night but are urging authorities to improve their disaster alert systems.
The magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck off the coast of Honduras on Tuesday night, shaking the mainland and setting off tsunami warnings for Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands as well as on the coasts of Mexico and Central America.
The warnings and advisories were cancelled about an hour later.
“What a mighty God! Have mercy upon us oh Lord we pray. Jamaica land we Love!!” said one Facebook user sharing the sentiments of many others who believed that the island was spared from the wrath of the tsunami by the grace of God.
“ I will say this here! The earth is mourning for the evils worldwide! No matter who you are… the safest place in the world is to be in JESUS CHRIST. Terrible times are ahead as humanity has never seen & though I will be mocked..(it's ok too). We have no control of the land so to speak & the fear will create chaos in many. JESUS CHRIST is coming whether it's believed or not! For those lolling.., no worries…you will see it dead or alive on this Earth.., none will escape HIS Judgement,” added another.
“When we think it's peace & safety, then sudden destruction. We must be on alert from now on”, added another.
Initially there was panic on social media after the news of the warning was aired on several international media outlets leaving many Jamaicans concerned about them not getting information and alerts from our local authorities.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness took to his official Twitter to keep those on that social media platform updated but it was not enough as many were expecting first hand information and alerts from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).
“I have not received any text message from the government. I heard this by watching the overseas news. Shame”, shared one Twitter user.
“We have some politicians actively informing people on social media. But we the public need to be getting it straight from the responsible agency, in this case ODPEM and not filtered. P-L-E-A-S-E!” another user stressed.
Others expressed concern that there was no alert from the telecommunications companies, Digicel Jamaica and Flow.
“All the unsolicited promotional messages Digicel sends me... would be great if they had sent a message about the Tsunami watch”, contended one user.
“I am disappointed about not getting any alerts. Why were there no text alerts from @DIGICELJamaica or @FLOWJamaica ? I learnt about this from a post on FB,” said another.
However Digicel responded saying that “in this process, as telecoms companies, we have to be guided by the authorities and await their information for SMS alerts.”
“So which agency did not issue an alert to the telecoms companies? I am getting the feeling that protocols are not in place!” another user argued.
“Emergency alerts on cellphones would be beneficial for situations like this. Seeing as how nuff ppl a sleep and wudda just wake up a drown”, quipped another.
Another suggested that the “ODPEM could indeed enter into agreements for early warning with phone companies but this is not as yet the case.”
Mayor of Kingston Delroy Williams, who was using his platform to keep the public updated, said we must learn from this experience and work together on improving our disaster preparedness warning/alert systems. He further noted that natural disasters are often times unpredictable so vigilance and a proactive approach is always a merit.
Another Twitter user, in commenting on the issue in the aftermath, said the earthquake and subsequent tsunami warning were an excellent lesson for our first responders.
Director General of the ODPEM, Major Clive Davis today warned against what he said were irresponsible postings on social media sites last night, stressing that only local authorities have the authority to place the country under a tsunami watch or warning, based on conditions here, and assessments.
He said his agency as well as the Ministry of National Security issued messages, putting the country on alert.
Davis further explained that the early warning system, which was set up in the coastal town of Old Harbour Bay, St Catherine in 2015, actually went into action and saw residents leaving their homes as a precaution.
He stressed that up to this morning his office was getting enquiries about whether the threat has passed, adding that people took the threat very seriously.
Last night's earthquake tsunami warning come on the heels of ODPEM launching Earthquake Awareness Week on Monday, which is being observed from January 7-13 under the theme 'Preparing for the quake helps reduce damage after the shake'.
“We really are actually in Earthquake Awareness Period (Jan - Mar) so we might want to use this opportunity to update ourselves on earthquake preparedness. Funny little thing about quakes is when one hits another isn't too far behind.” said one user.
One user used the opportunity last night to ask what precautions should be taken if the threat of a tsunami has been issued.
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Source : http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/latestnews/Jcans_relieved_tsunami_didnt_hit_but_say_alert_system_needs_improvement?profile=1228