PRIME MINISTER SAYS GET HURRICANE READY

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne said he has taken “precautionary steps to avert harmful after effects” if Hurricane Irma’s rainbands and tailwinds reach the twin-island on Monday or Tuesday.
“The passage of a hurricane is not a matter to be taken lightly, although we ought not panic. Please, however, do all that is necessary to ensure that our families’ lives, properties and valuable possessions are not placed in any danger because of negligence or failure to heed the warnings,” the prime minister said.
He revealed that contingency plans are in the works, which will see the health ministry, Central Board of Health (CBH) and National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) band together to clean drains and remove debris that could possibly block waterways.
In a press release, Browne explained that the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) was instructed to “dispatch teams of workers immediately to prune trees that overhang power lines, and to clear those shrubs and bushes that could impair recovery should Irma’s winds disrupt electricity”.
The head of the Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force has also been asked to help APUA with more manpower, over the next 72 hours.
“I have mobilized EC $500,000 dollars to meet the additional operating costs and to pay overtime which this contingency plan may cost,” said PM Browne. 
The threat of Category 3 Hurricane Irma has also led the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) to emphasize the importance of natural disaster readiness island-wide.
Public Relations Officer (PRO) Mitcie Francis said yesterday that residents should prepare as though the island will be directly impacted by the hurricane.
She said the Director of NODS Philmore Mullins has informed the team that the system is nothing like Hurricane Omar in 2008 and Hurricane Earl in 2010 which saw one fatality in Antigua.
“We are making it clear that since it is days away, the situation could change [and] there is still some time for last minute preparation,” Francis said.
The PRO is also encouraging residents to “board up” their properties or install hurricane shutters “with haste” to protect windows and doors.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology sent a release via Whatsapp, alerting parents, students and teachers to prepare for any eventuality.
The message was sent on Friday and stated an update would follow 48 hours to inform these groups of possible closures at the country’s schools set to open on Monday.
In an exclusive OBSERVER media interview, Francis also said residents should “remove loose objects from the yard and patio, prune dead or dying trees, tie down any large objects that cannot be brought indoors and recharge appropriate equipment such as cell phones.”
Late Friday afternoon, OBSERVER media scoured Market Street and asked residents if they were aware of the threat and the level of preparedness they had achieve.
A vendor outside the Public Market said she recently renovated her home and does not believe the hurricane will cause any major damage to the property.
“I usually don’t worry about these things because no matter what we do we can’t stop a storm from coming and right now it can go north and west,” a man said.
The majority of persons interviewed said they will be taking trips to the gas station, supermarket, pharmacy and cashing out at the ATMs before the weekend ends.
Up to press time the MET office reported that there is a 67 per cent chance of Irma coming our way and so the tracking will continue as we are still in a cone of uncertainty.

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