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CDEMA calls for building national first responder capacity

The head of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) says a series of earthquakes in Barbados and other Caribbean islands this week underscores at the regional level, the importance of building national first responder capacity for dealing with seismic events.

On Thursday Barbados experienced as many as six tremors, and the US Geological Survey reported that they were also felt in the British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

“We find that far too much interest is placed in climate change, not that we shouldn’t have it, but we have to recognise that the earthquake threat is ever present,” CDEMA’s Executive Director, Ronald Jackson told a news conference.

“I think we have been heeding the warning from the seismic research centre from as far back as, I would say February 2014 where a number of events from the Christmas period coming into 2014 and again earlier this year has really raised, I wouldn’t call them alarm bells, but certainly underscore the importance that we have to move at pace. That now it is a situation of urgency that we address the capacity of our first responders, given the catastrophic nature that seismic events can leave us with.”

The last major earthquake in the Caribbean was in Haiti in January 2010, which measured 7.0 magnitude.

Over 230,000 people were killed and an estimated 300,000 injured in the disaster.  The quake also caused severe damage to infrastructure across the capital Port au Prince, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

Jackson said CDEMA continues to work with its member states, as well as the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre, which is providing guidance on the expectation of what could occur across the member states in the event of a major disaster.

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