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Jamaican fishermen ignore Tropical Storm warning

ON THE SCENE: Frigate birds swarm fishermen on the Pedro Cays

BARRING ANY unforeseen change in its trajectory, Tropical Storm ‘Sandy’ is expected to dump heavy showers on Jamaica later tonight accompanied by strong winds.

But while the storm is churning and gaining momentum at sea, more than 200 fishermen located on the Pedro Cays are taking a ‘wait-and-see’ approach.

Late yesterday evening, a fisherman known as ‘Mullo’, who was on the Pedro Cays, told The Gleaner that he has not seen any sign of preparation by his colleagues to return to the mainland.

"I have not seen anybody make move yet but they on alert," Mullo pointed out, noting that they received the warning from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM).

Yesterday, the ODPEM warned marine interests that they would experience winds primarily out of the east and becoming southerly by today and they must move swiftly to secure their properties.

"Fishers on the cays and banks are strongly advised to evacuate immediately and start returning to the mainland. Other small craft operators in our coastal waters are advised to return to port and small craft operators who are in port are advised not to venture out," the ODPEM advised.

Tough experience

Even though some of his colleagues had a tough experience when Hurricane Ivan battered Jamaica in 2004, Mullo said this has not changed the mindset of some fishermen. According to Mullo, those who braved Hurricane Ivan said ‘it was not a pretty sight’.

It is clear that if Mullo owned his own boat he would have been on his way back to the mainland. However, he said he has been trying to urge his friends to make the trip back.

"I am always ready anytime but I don't have a boat so I have to wait for them."

According to Mullo, about 80 fisherfolk are now at an area called Bottom Cay while nearly 200 other people are staying at Middle Cay.

The fishers, he said, are reluctant to move because persons might remove their goods when they return to the mainland.

"As you move and turn your back they’ll break into the shop," he said.

In the meantime, ODPEM Director General Ronald Jackson told The Gleaner yesterday that his agency would continue to issue warnings for marine interests to return to the mainland. He said the Jamaica Defence Force coastguards usually support the call for evacuation of the cays.

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