A contingent of 120 Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) soldiers departed the island this afternoon (Sept. 7) to provide recovery and humanitarian support to the Bahamas following the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian.
They were accompanied by 11 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which provided airlift support.
At least 43 persons in the Bahamas have died and homes and infrastructure destroyed as a result of Hurricane Dorian, which hit the country as a Category Five system.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, who met with the troops at the Norman Manley International Airport ahead of the departure, expressed gratitude to the Canadian Government for facilitating the deployment of the JDF Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to the Bahamas.
“This is now the second time that the Governments of Jamaica and Canada and the defence forces of both countries have worked together to provide airlift for the Disaster Assistance Response Team,” he said, noting the airlift support provided for deployment of the JDF to Dominica in the aftermath of hurricane in 2017.
The Prime Minister said that the JDF is prepared to assist in any area that the Bahamian Government may require but in the initial stages, the focus will be on recovery, search and rescue, logistics, medical assistance and any emergency engineering needs.
“So far, what we have seen is that in the initial stages there will be need for recovery assistance because the damage was so extensive; there will be need for logistics assistance as well,” he noted.
Mr. Holness said the Government of Jamaica is considering other ways of supporting the people of the Bahamas, noting that he has been in close contact with the country’s Prime Minister, Hubert Minnis.
In the meantime, Mr. Holness said that a decision was taken to increase the members of the JDF DART given the threats associated with climate change.
“We recognise that with the change in climate that we could have multiples of these kinds of extreme weather events and so, although we are sending 120 men to the Bahamas, we still have reserve capacity here, that God forbid, anything was to happen in Jamaica or elsewhere, (we) would be in a position to respond,” he said.
Mr. Holness charged the team to be good ambassadors of Jamaica while executing their duties.
“There are Jamaicans in the Bahamas, look out for them as you would look out for the Bahamian people that you are going there to serve,” he said.
For her part, Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica, Her Excellency Laurie Peters, said her country stands ready to collaborate and provide assistance.
“We are standing side by side with Jamaica in support of our Caribbean neighbours. It’s a proud moment for me to see the Royal Canadian Air Force, Hercules C130 (aircraft) here in duty to transport and airlift the Jamaica Defence Force in aid of the Bahamian people,” she said.
Also at the airport were Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith; Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, and Canadian Defence Attaché to the West Indies, Col. Jacques O’Keefe.
Canadians Air Support … As 43 Now Dead
As the relief effort to assist with search and rescue in the Bahamas gets into top gear Jamaica has dispatched a further 120 soldiers to help in Abaco and elsewhere which has been heavily ravaged by hurricane Dorian. 43 is now dead and much more bodies are expected to be found. When the rescue is complete “the reconstruction will occur and they will be there as long as they are needed.” Asserts PM Holness who is also Minister of Defence. Dressed in khaki, the Defence Minister was on hand to see off his troops “You are our ambassadors …” he further advised the Disaster Recovery Team (DART) team.
Canadian Air Support
An huge hercules plane from the Canadian Air Force (CAF) has made it possible for a further contingent to be airlifted to the Bahamas
We salute the Canadians for their support. Ambassador Peters was also on hand to greet the Canadians and send off the Jamaican troops. Army General Rocky Meade was also on hand to see off the second contingent to the Bahamas. “The first set of troops allowed us to better access the needs … whether we need more carpenters or doctors” asserted the army head.
“Be safe …” the Defence Minister cautioned his troops.
Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie is Senior International Correspondent for Vision Newspaper Canada.