Dominica hints at legislation to compel private sector to send home workers

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Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit

The Dominica government Wednesday hinted at the possibility of enacting legislation before year-end that would give authorities the right to compel the private sector to send home workers in the event of an approaching storm or other natural disasters.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who cancelled a trip to India to return here to be part of the team preparing for the passage of tropical storm Isaac that was once a hurricane, also announced that schools and the public sector workers would remain home on Thursday.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit speaking at a news conference on Wednesday (CMC Photo)

“There will be no work for public officers and again we would like to call on the private sector to follow in that same manner (and) to have their employees stay home.

“I understand that there are essential services and those in the essential services will be at work …but the rest of us in the public service are asked to stay home and to ensure that we can secure ourselves, secure our families and our properties.

“We would like the private sector to do the same and this is why going forward we have to implement legislation that would authorise the NEPO (National Emergency Planning Organisation), the cabinet that when a decision is taken with regards to work it would apply to every employee in the country, and these are the things we intend to do in terms of disaster management going forward,” Skerrit said, adding that he hope to have the legislation debated in the Parliament by year end.

Dominica is still recovering from the battering it took last September when Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm slammed into the island, killing more than 30 people and leaving a trial of destruction estimated at millions of dollars (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents).

Skerrit said that while the latest weather bulletin has indicated that Isaac is now a tropical storm, he was reminding citizens that in 2015, tropical storm Erika killed at least 20 people, caused floods and mudslides that have set the country back 20 years.

Erika dumped 15 inches of rain on the mountainous island and Skerrit said it also forced the relocation of an entire village.

He told reporters that the police would later on Wednesday  issue a statement regarding the security arrangements to be undertaken during the passage of the storm as he appealed for citizens t ensure that they are adequately prepared for Isaac.

“Let us continue to pray because with prayer all things are possible,” Skerrit said, adding also that he could well understand the “anxiety” faced by the residents of the United States as Hurricane Florence approaches that country.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said that tropical storm Isaac was “rapidly moving westward’ and that it was now 350 miles east of the French island of Martinique.

A tropical storm warning remains in effect for Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe, while a tropical storm watch had gone into effect for Antigua, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Martin and St. Maarten.

NHC said that Isaac is packing winds of 60 miles per hour (mph) and it is near latitude 15.1 North, longitude 55.7 West.

“Isaac is moving faster towards the west near 21 mph and this general motion with a decrease in forward is expected to continue through the weekend. On the forecast track, Isaac is forecast to move across the central Lesser Antilles and into the eastern Caribbean Sea on Thursday, and then move across the eastern and central Caribbean Sea through Saturday.”

The NHC said that a gradual weakening is forecast during the next 72 hours but that Isaac is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of two to four inches with isolated amounts up to eight inches across

Martinique, Dominica, and Guadeloupe.

“Rainfall of one to two inches with isolated amounts to four inches are forecast across Puerto Rico and the southern United States Virgin Islands, with up to an inch anticipated across the remaining Windward and Leeward Islands.  This rainfall may cause life-threatening flash flooding,” the NHC warned.

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