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Earthquake monument a timely reminder

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Kingston, Jamaica, January 30, 2017 – The 1907 Earthquake Monument is among the starkest reminders of one of the most fateful days in Jamaica’s history.  The towering structure sits on land at Bumper Hall in Greenwich Town, St. Andrew, where 501 unidentified victims of the quake, which occurred 110 years ago on January 14, were interred.

earthquake jamaicaHistory recounts that they were among the over 1,000 persons who perished during the 6.5 magnitude earthquake at approximately 3:30 p.m. which, for 36 seconds, rocked the foundation of the growing Kingston metropolis. “Screams split the air. Within 10 to 20 seconds, a town of 446,000 had been rendered immobile,” one report recounts.  Its devastating impact was superseded only by the 1692 earthquake which sank a significant portion of Port Royal, resulting in the survivors of that devastation resettling on the adjacent area of land across the harbour which is now Kingston.

The 1907 earthquake’s destruction was compounded by a fire which broke out, limiting rescue efforts by first responders searching for survivors and bodies amongst the rubble to which numerous buildings had been reduced.  The fire, according to historians, swept an area bounded to the east by Mark Lane; north by South Parade; west along Orange Street; and south by the Caribbean Sea.  Persons who were trapped by the rubble or otherwise unable to escape the flames perished. This, as the city was rendered helpless consequent on the destruction of the Jamaica Fire Brigade’s equipment and infrastructure, and broken water mains.

The next day, after the dust had settled and the smoke dissipated, over 1,000 persons lay dead either amidst the rubble or at the public hospital where numerous victims succumbed to injuries after being admitted.   Half of the victims were found burnt and charred along the principal streets of the city, which was plunged into semi-darkness, with the overall damage estimated at £2 million (approximately $316 million).  Survivors, whose homes or businesses were destroyed, sought refuge in parks or on the adjoining lawns of wrecked houses.

earthquake jamaica 2Among the victims were: Deputy Chairman of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company of London and Member of Parliament, Sir James Ferguson; importer and plantation owner, Edgar deCordova; Head of the West India Regiment Royal Army, who was only identified as Lieutenant R.R.; and Cuban Consul General, J. Perez.  Others included: seven European and 13 native West India Regiment Army Non-Commissioned Officers and their families; 90 children reportedly killed when the school building they were in collapsed; 120 Cuban employees of the Machado Cigar Factory; 35 employees of the local tourist bureau; and 10 Americans who were buried in unmarked graves.

Among the buildings either severely damaged or destroyed were: the Supreme Court; Nova Scotia Bank; Congregational Churches; the Myrtle Bank Hotel; the City Council’s office; the Jamaica Club; Hope College; the railway terminus; all newspaper offices; and the cable company’s office.

Following the earthquake, a special committee was established to spearhead the monument’s erection at Bumper Hall. Among its members were representatives of The Gleaner Company, which reported extensively on the devastation.  Research conducted by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) shows that the structure was built using reinforced concrete.

Speaking at a recent 110th anniversary commemorative ceremony organised by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) at Bumper Hall, Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange, who has portfolio responsibility for the JNHT, said the agency was asked to analyse and assess various aspects of  the monument in 2015.  “Excavations carried out around the monument confirmed that the most significant aspect…was actually buried. A section of the wall surrounding the burial chamber of the approximately 500 unknown victims was discerned by the JNHT team in March 2015, and its presence was confirmed in an article of the Daily Gleaner of Thursday, June 3, 1909,” she informed.  Ms. Grange further advised that the structure, which was restored, is located in the centre of the two burial trenches extending north and south.

earthquake jamaica 3Opposition Leader and Member of Parliament for South West St. Andrew, where the monument is located, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, who also spoke at the ceremony, hailed the community support mobilised in the restoration effort.  “The people of Greenwich Town and residents of Little Eighth Street in particular have been the guardians of this national heritage site for the past 110 years. They are, therefore, deserving of commendation as we pay respect to those whose remains lay here,” she said.

Mrs. Simpson Miller also expressed gratitude for the input of several entities in the exercise. They include: the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund; Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo).  “We also thank other agencies such as the Social Development Commission (SDC), Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF); Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT); Urban Development Corporation (UDC); and National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA),” she said.     Mrs. Simpson Miller also praised the ODPEM for continuing to highlight the importance of earthquake awareness.

While earthquake awareness is observed annually in January, ODPEM has, this year, embarked on a three-month campaign, from January to March, under the theme: ‘Drop. Cover. Hold…Earthquake Readiness is within Your Control’.

ODPEM’s Director General, Major Clive Davis, who also spoke at the ceremony, said that for the duration of the campaign, “we will endeavour to bring information to the public, to sensitise and remind the populace of the earthquake hazards and how to manage them.”

 

Education

Education Minister announces Platinum Partnerships for internet and tablet program amidst COVID surge

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By Shaniek Smith

Staff Writer

 

#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – Schools did not resume in person learning in the Turks and Caicos on January 4, instead it was back to virtual classes for 7,400 children in the British overseas territory due to an omicron-driven surge in Covid-19 infections.

It was announced on the New Year’s Day holiday for TCI, January 3 in a press conference hosted by Rachel Taylor, the Minister of Education, and attended by Jamell Robinson, Minister of Health and supported by Premier Washington Misick, who was also at the live event.

In a promised update, parents got the not-so-good-news, virtual classes would resume at least until the end of January due to the surge and staff shortages being experienced.  Turks and Caicos, up to Thursday January 14 had over 800 active cases, five new deaths and a 600 per cent increase in hospitalisations.  The Minister said the decision was in the interest of safety.

The Minister also promised to get devices and internet to students in order for them to participate in learning during this virtual-only season.  The press conference on January 13, welcomed partners Flow, Digicel and the Pine Cay Project.

In her address, chair of the Pine Cay Project, Marie Landel, said that an urgent call from Dr. Carlton Mills, a member of their board of trustees revealed that about 750 students would be without internet connection and devices.

The Pine Cay Project responded to that information and has agreed to pay for internet for 30 days students, with its partner in the initiative, DigicelTCI.  It is an $18,000 investment in education continuity for hundreds of children.

“We had strong discussions on what we should do with the money that we collect every year, so yesterday we agreed to the funding in emergency situation of 300 internet connections and devices that are going to help the students in need, and we’re very proud to be able to act quickly,” Landel expressed.

Additionally, the Marketing Manager at Digicel TCI, Mr Drexler Smith, said Digicel has partnered with the Ministry of Education to provide about 1,000 tablets for public schools. Smith added that 75 MiFi devices valued at 7,000 dollars were provided; they come with free data services for up to three months for students in need.

Digicel has also created a special education plan for e-learning with specific zero-rated sites and applications. The company partnered with Pine Cay and other private entities in this regard. Various schools and educational facilities in South Caicos, Five Cays, and Providenciales have benefitted from laptops, data plans, MiFi’s, and e-learning kits.

Marketing Executive Flow TCI, Darron Hilaire, also shared the contributions Flow made to the education sector since the pandemic.

“Within the last three years, Flow TCI, through our charitable foundation, would have donated $130,000 worth of ICT equipment to 2 schools respectively in Grand Turk and in Providenciales for the outfitting of the new computer labs to help facilitate the ministry’s vision to foster an efficient e-learning environment for students,” he said.

Mr. Hilaire added that within the first year of the pandemic, Flow responded to requests from the Ministry to increase the bandwidth to public schools in the TCI. Hilaire said Flow home internet speed doubles automatically at no cost to its customers in early July.

He said that within the last 60 days, Flow TCI announced a recent donation of $25,000 dollars to two schools in North Caicos and one in Providenciales. The donation was in aid of increasing connectivity and infrastructural upgrades.

“As we come to the end of this phase of the project, our objective is to look at doing the same for other schools in the second phase of the projects to further arm our schools with the access to technology to provide the best quality education to students,” Hilaire added.

Amanyara Resort, not present at the press event, was said to be working on additional laptops for hundreds of children despite having already donated to several schools in Providenciales.

Minister Rachel Taylor and her team, including Eugene Grant, ICT Education Officer at the Ministry of Education and Mark Garland, Deputy Director of Education thanked the donors; they were labelled Platinum Partners by the Minister.

 

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Health

Over 5000 COVID cases on Cruises, CDC investigations launched

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#January 15, 2022 – Cruises have continued across the Americas despite the US Centers for Disease Control dire warning that even vaccinated individuals should be wary of them. Now the CDC informs that Coronavirus cases have been reported on every cruise ship sailing with passengers in U.S. waters.

According to the CDC, all 92 ships with passengers have met the threshold for investigation by the public health agency. In every case, the CDC has either started an investigation or has investigated.

Surges in Covid-19 on land have led to spikes on the high seas, revealed that update on Tuesday. Cases have rocketed from 162 in early December to 5,013 up to December 29th.

The CDC warned travellers including those who are vaccinated to avoid cruising in December, following the announcement videos surfaced of jam-packed cruise ships with unmasked passengers ringing in the New Year.

Meanwhile, Grand Turk is still welcoming cruise ships.  Eleven cruise ships are scheduled to dock at the Grand Turk Cruise Center throughout January, according to the port schedule.

Jamell Robinson, TCI Minister of Health has confirmed that ships have been allowed to dock in Grand Turk with positive COVID cases on board.

He said. “Now in each ship there are stations or places for isolation on board…Just because a vessel has people with Covid-19 on it doesn’t necessarily mean we wouldn’t allow them to disembark.”

The minister explained the number of positive cases recorded on cruise ships that had arrived in Grand Turk was .001 per cent of all guests and they were not allowed to disembark.

So far, Turks and Caicos has turned away at least one cruise liner due to fears of COVID exposure in the capital, which has gone from a handful of active cases to now 111, as of January 14.

The US Centers for Disease Control reported on Tuesday that COVID-19 cases on cruise ships have increased to 30 times what they were in mid-December.

 

 

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Health

New York, US Epicenter for Omicron “turning the corner”

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By Shanieka Smith

Staff Writer

 

#USA, January 15, 2022 – Today, New York is seeing a downward trend in Covid-19 cases, as officials revealed, “we are turning the corner” on Friday in updating on the state of affairs in the city, labelled the epicenter of omicron for the United States.

Before, data from the New York State Department of Health showed that the number of new coronavirus infections per 100,000 vaccinated residents in the State, rose from 29.8 in the first week of December to 222.3 last week.  Also, the rate of new cases in unvaccinated adults rose from 239.6 to 1,583.1 per 100,000.

New York is a key source market for the Turks and Caicos and much of the Caribbean, which is heavily reliant upon winter travellers.  The data showed, too, that vaccine effectiveness against severe infection remained high.

Only 4.59 fully vaccinated adults out of 100,000 were hospitalised with COVID-19 in the week of December 27.  However, that number increased, and the hospitalisation rate for the unvaccinated is nearly 13 times higher.

New York’s rolling positivity rate fell below 20% in recent days, but media reports indicate the death toll in the State hit a startling high of 195 for the first time since the mass vaccination rollout.

 

 

 

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