At 5 pm, the Met Office issued a bulletin which confirmed that Â‘potential tropical cyclone #2' had strengthened into Tropical Storm Bret and was at that time, moving to the west north west at 48 km/hr.
It was expected to move over Trinidad and the coast of Venezuela last night and into this morning.
The Ministry of Education and the Banker's Association, in separate press releases stated that all schools and banks across the country would be closed today in anticipation of damage and disruption to daily life caused by the second named Tropical Storm of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season. It is the first storm to directly hit TT in decades.
All relevant first responders and the national response framework for disaster management have been activated and supported by all the necessary agencies as Trinidad, Tobago and Grenada prepared for Bret.
STAY CALM "I cannot stress the importance for the population to be calm and for persons to monitor radio and television, the ODPM and the met office website," Captain Neville Wint, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the ODPM said during a press conference at 3.30 pm at the National Security Ministry in Port of Spain.
Wint said that at 1 pm, the National Emergency Operation Centre was activated and a meeting held with all relevant stakeholders and first responders. "Rest assured that entities are taking the necessary steps to ensure that our priorities that have been listed, which is to protect the safety and health of all responders and the population, save lives and undue suffering, protect the public and private sector, protect critical infrastructure, protect property and protect the environment, and reduce economic and social losses." The first responders include the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Tobago Emergency and Management Agency (TEMA), Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service, Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government, Ministry of Health, Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA),and the Civil Aviation and Airports Authority.
They were asked, Wint said, to provide briefs on their preparedness in the pre-stage of the tropical depression in terms of predisposition on equipment and assets so that they could response in the shortest possible time in the aftermath of the passing of the tropical storm.
SEEK YOUR BEST INTEREST While assuring that all first responding agencies were prepared, Wint asked population "to look at the 72 hour-protocol that the ODPM has in place" and to sustain themselves during the 72 hours after the impact as first responders may not be able to reach them.
"Based on the impact it would take personnel, resources and equipment to move into location, preposition and then respond. If the impact is severe we will try to get to the impacted population as soon as possible," he said.
The TTDF has ensured that all expensive assets, boats and otherwise are taken out of sea as a precaution.
They have also mobilised personnel for ease of response and strategically located to provide ODPM and regional corporations with levels of support, he said.
Four damage assessment and needs analysis teams, are in place.
In meetings, Wint said, WASA, T&TEC and TSTT have all activated their response mechanism are in place and they will not be curtailing their services.
Once the work of the engineering battalion, regional corporations and damage assessments and needs analysis are done, "We would be able to identify the priority items and action plans, inform the Minister of National Security and by extension Cabinet on the way forward," he said.
On Tobago, he said, he has had discussions with Director of TEMA, Allan Stuart and the island has had 14 shelters activated.
Some 28 shelters have also been identified throughout Trinidad.
The list of shelters is published on the ODPM and Ministry of Rural and Local Government websites.
Shelters are for those impacted and who would be in need of housing in the aftermath of the storm Wint said.
The ODPM, Wint said was also coordinating its activities with CDEMA which has activated its response mechanisms to support States that would most likely be impacted. Based on an agreement, TT is responsible for providing assistance to Grenada, Guyana and Suriname. However, as TT is impacted by the event, he said, "CDEMA is activating their system to provide support to TT and in particular Grenada if the need arises." At the same time, he said, "based on the impact, we are also preparing full response for Grenada and Guyana is that need arises." Meanwhile, he noted that the air traffic services have cancelled flights out of Tobago until 5.30 am and Grenada has closed all operations effective 8 pm yesterday to 10 am today.
CORPORATIONS ON ALERT Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Rural and Local Government Sandai Rampersad said that all the disaster management units (DMUs) of the 14 regional municipal, borough and regional corporations have mobilised their personnel and equipment and have put in place emergency response centres with the ODPM.
The DMUs are working with community networks. She said that contractors who worked with the ministry's national clean up campaign are also on standby.
Meanwhile, ACP Sharon Blake- Clarke of the TTPS said that all police officers who were on leave have been called out for duty and all nine divisional commanders have been assigned to assist regional corporations where necessary.
They will be intensifying patrols in the case of loss of electricity, she said. Vehicles were yesterday being readied and trauma kits placed in vehicles to assist the injured.
"The police is on high alert for any eventuality," she said.
At the level of the Ministry of Health, Permanent Secretary Dianne Dhanpath said that all regional health authorities had mobilised all their resources and were on standby. Health centres would be available 24 hours once the system hits she said. "Elective surgeries and the extended hours have been cancelled for the time being until the system has passed. GMRTT ambulances have been deployed to the various regions for easier access," she said. (See Pages 5 & 8)
BREAKING NEWS Despite the fact that a tropical storm was barrelling towards the country, criminals were not paying attention or appeared concerned since at 7 pm last evening, police had to be called out to the basketball court in Laventille, at the scene of a triple murder where three men were gunned down. More details in tomorrow's edition.
TRINIDAD Y TOBAGO: BRET STORMS IN
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