My fellow Antiguans and Barbudans, residents and friends:
The National Meteorological Service has advised that there is more than a 50% probability that Hurricane Irma will affect Antigua and Barbuda. Its rain bands or its tailwinds may make life a little difficult for us, even if the eye passes north of our Leeward Islands on Monday or Tuesday, September 4th or 5th 2017. I have therefore taken several precautionary steps to avert harmful after-effects on our country.
First, I have asked the Minister of Health to mobilize the Central Board of Health (CBH) and the National Solid Waste Management Authority to clean the major drains, and to remove any debris that could block the flow of floodwater that may fall during the passage of Irma.
Second, I have instructed the Head of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF) to co-ordinate closely with the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS); together, they will firm-up their contingency plans to help those who may fall into distress should Irma have ill-effects on our state. The Royal Antigua and Barbuda Police Force is also to be placed in a state of readiness, following a meeting with the Commissioner of Police.
Third, I have asked the Minister with responsibility for APUA to dispatch teams of workers immediately to prune trees that overhang power lines, and to clear those shrubs and bushes that could impair recovery should Irma’s winds disrupt electricity. I have asked the ABDF to coordinate with APUA to provide any additional manpower that may be required to perform the additional tasks, over the next 72 hours.
I also inform that I have mobilized EC$500,000 dollars to meet the additional operating costs and to pay overtime which this contingency plan may cost. That money would enable the agencies of government to draw down all the equipment and manpower resources required over the next 72 hours.
I take this opportunity to ask the able-bodied adults and homeowners across the country to take all necessary actions to safeguard their own properties, and to secure their valuables. The passage of a hurricane is not a matter to be taken lightly, although we ought not panic. Please, however, do all that is necessary to ensure that our families’ lives, properties and valuable possessions are not placed in any danger because of negligence or failure to heed the warnings.
I pray God’s blessings on our nation and ask God’s mercies, as we face a potential natural disaster.
This is Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. I thank you for listening.