By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE National Emergency Management Agency will apply to have the government’s exigency order for hurricane victims extended past its 90-day period if the need arises, according to the agency’s director, Captain Stephen Russell.
Capt Russell said yesterday that he was aware of the concerns that the imposed time frame might not be sufficient for residents hardest hit by Hurricane Joaquin to import certain items duty free.
“Again, persons are concerned about the 90 days. We will work with the 90 days at this time and if we need to extend it we will make (an) application or a request that will extend the 90 days as necessary,” Capt Russell said during a press briefing over Hurricane Joaquin relief efforts at the Office of the Prime Minister.
This came a day after FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis urged the government to extend the exigency order.
Dr Minnis expressed concern that the time frame might not be long enough for persons to rebuild their lives, after losing all of their personal items during the category four storm.
“That is not even close to being enough time,” Dr Minnis said of the exigency order.
“Most people do not have the cash ready to make big purchases and would have to seek assistance from their family and that takes a while. It takes a while to get an inventory of all they need and to get their stuff in order in terms of immediate needs. If the government does not extend the order we, as the opposition, will advocate on the people’s behalf until they do. We will do what needs to be done.”
Dr Minnis also said the government should send therapists to hurricane impacted islands to prevent a “medical meltdown”.
However, a Ministry of Health official has said two psychologists and a psychiatrist were sent to Long Island where there is widespread devastation.
In a press release issued on the weekend, the government said Prime Minister Perry Christie signed an exigency order to respond to the urgent need for specified goods required for recovery and rebuilding.
The order covers relief of residents in Acklins, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Exuma, Inagua, Long Cay, Long Island, Mayaguana, Rum Cay, Ragged Island, Samana Cay and San Salvador which suffered hardship or loss as a result of Hurricane Joaquin, and whose claims/applications in respect of such goods are certified by the director of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
The import of goods specified is permitted for a period of 90 days, beginning October 3, 2015.
In reference to motor vehicles, exemption will be based on the market value of the vehicle destroyed on the date of the hurricane, the government said. The destroyed vehicle must be turned over to the authority of the Customs Department.
The government has also declared the waiver of landing fees, departure tax for non-commercial flights bringing in relief goods, and Customs processing fees on imports in the above-mentioned islands for a period of one month, commencing October 3, 2015.
The islands of Acklins, Crooked Island, and Long Cay have been declared sufferance port areas for a period of three months, commencing October 3, 2015.