Government to review hurricane plan for West Indies Oil Company

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By Latrishka Thomas

The effects of Hurricane Dorian’s wrath on the Bahamas has caused the government of Antigua and Barbuda to consider other measures of protecting some of the country’s most valuable assets such as the West Indies Oil company (WIOC).

On September 1st, the Category 5 hurricane unleashed 180 mph winds and caused sea swells in the  Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama.

Dorian not only flattened homes, killing at least 50 people thus far, and leaving around 1300 persons missing, but it also caused a major oil spill at the South Riding Point oil terminal. The oil has reportedly spread 43 to 50 miles away from the damaged terminal and to parts of the coastline.

Information Minister Melford Nicholas said that this has forced the government here to review contingency plans for the West Indies Oil company, which serves not only Antigua and Barbuda, but a number of OECS countries.

“We took for example a look at what happened to a bunker facility, an oil facility just like our own West Indies Oil and the environmental damage that has been wrought as a result of the destruction on that facility, and we will now have to look at even strengthening, having a second look at even our own insulation.

“We already have had feedback from the general manager of West Indies Oil who was presented with some of those images, and we have looked at the whole engineering that has gone into the expanded tank farm that we have, but we also have to think that with best intentions that nature could defeat the best engineering that we could come up with, so we have to still think about mitigation,” he stated.

Hurricane Dorian remained stationed over the Bahamas for 18 hours, producing up to 24 inches of rain, according to NASA satellite-based estimates.

This amount of rain coupled with sea swells of up to 18 feet, presented a second problem that a country like Antigua and Barbuda would have to face if it is hit by a storm of such magnitude.

Nicholas stated this by saying: “We also have to look at the potential for a large influx of seawater from any increase in the rise of the tidal position as a result of the actions of the hurricane and what that might do in certain scenarios in certain low-lying areas.

“If we were to have a storm prevailing from the southern side – the low-lying areas around Urlings- and that area, what a 20-foot surge or even a 10-foot surge may do, and we have to think of what type of evacuation we need to do and what we may have to do in circumstances where we have to deal with saving lives which is the ultimate aim in these circumstances because there is very little you can do to save property other than to ensure that there is insurance risk to avert these challenges, and to get back into a situation of rebuilding, but I think it forces us now to be able to look at some of our own assumptions about hurricanes and the type of preparations that we have to make.” The government plans to consult and engage with WIOC, first responders and the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS).

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