Barbudans will be allowed to return to the devastated island this weekend following government’s lifting of the mandatory evacuation order from midnight tonight.
Minister of Information Melford Nicholas made the announcement yesterday at this week’s post-Cabinet media briefing.
“The Cabinet has agreed to lift the mandatory evacuation order in Barbuda and that is separate and distinct from the state of emergency which still obtains in Barbuda and the underlying reason for lifting the mandatory evacuation order comes on the heel of the general state of improvement in the environment in Barbuda.”
Nicholas credited the improvement to the work done by teams from the Ministry of Health, PAHO and scores of Barbudans who have been part of the cleanup efforts. It was also reported that the cleanup in Codrington was expected to be completed in three days once work continued daily.
According to the minister, a degree of vector control has been implemented through fogging and the treatment of surface waters and catchments to eradicate mosquitoes and larvae.
“But I think most importantly, the ability of the remaining cleanup effort has been enhanced because the roadways have been pretty much cleared of debris … to the extent that the clinical facilities at the Hanna Thomas Hospital has been repaired to the extent that emergency medical services can indeed be delivered.”
This is in addition to the mobile medical services already available, Nicholas said. However, the minister cautioned that potable water and electricity for the public are yet to be restored.
A tank capable of holding some 100,000 gallons of potable water is to be shipped to Barbuda at the weekend while the parts for the reverse osmosis plant, damaged by Hurricane Irma have already been ordered, the minister said. He added that delivery could take a couple weeks. In the interim, a portable plant has been sourced from Trinidad and Tobago and is expected in a matter of days.
In the meantime, NODS would determine the deployment of the mobile generation sets in its possession, Nicholas added. Landline telephone services were available to the teams on the island from Wednesday while cellular phone services were expected to be back up from yesterday.
On the issue of security, the minister pointed out that the police and the military would still have the cover of the state of emergency to act to maintain law and order as the situation demands. However, the imposition of a curfew on Barbuda was not one of things considered by the Cabinet.
Nicholas acknowledged that there was still a level of risk but added that the government would not dissuade people from returning to the island. The state of emergency is in place for an initial 30 days.
NODS will continue to coordinate the movement of people to and from Barbuda.