Hurricane the least of Port Royal's problems
"A only when hurricane a come them remember we ova yasso, but hurricane is the least of our problems," Gay Williams, a lifelong resident of Port Royal, Kingston told THE STAR when our team visited the seaside community on Tuesday.
Williams and other residents came under heavy criticism after they refused to relocate, despite the island being under threat from Category 4 Hurricane Matthew since Friday.
However, some residents told our news team there are bigger issues that need to be addressed in the area, such as the lack of a functional fire unit and permanent clinic in the community of over 3,000 residents, as well as the destruction of the mangroves by outsiders.
Eighty-five-year-old Jean Prawl told THE STAR of an incident, two years ago, in which a historical site known as Angler's Bar burned to the ground, despite being located next to the fire station.
"I born and come see that bar around there so, and it would still be there as a treasure in the community if we did have a fire engine to put out the blaze. Hurricane no worry we, we need a fire engine," the elderly resident said.
She added that hurricanes have rarely claimed lives in Port Royal.
"It's only in Hurricane Charlie in 1951, four people died over here; and they were tourists who were staying in the area. The residents invited them down into the community but they said they were OK near the beach," Prawl recalled.
Despite its status as a historical community on the island, which attracts many visitors, Williams contends that Port Royal has been woefully neglected.
"Whole heap a politicians and big companies come keep them events down here. Just last week, somebody come shoot a commercial down here, and we don't get anything from it. We don't even have a community centre or a permanent clinic down here," she said, explaining that the health practitioners only visit the community once per month.
Another resident, Winsome Edwards, added that authorities need to look into the destruction of the mangroves which serve as a habitat for the fish, from which many residents earn a living.
"Outsiders come and chop them out to make brooms, and sometimes people who come to hunt oysters chop down the mangroves when they go in there," she lamented.
Member of Parliament for the area, Phillip Paulwell, said he was aware of a number of issues affecting the area. He told THE STAR that plans are afoot to rectify some of them, including the provision of a fire truck.
"It was a gift from the Japanese government, and it should be in place soon. It was donated last year on a request by myself and the Caribbean Maritime Institute, so that is being procured," he said.
"I acknowledge there is the issue of the medical facility. It's just to find an appropriate space for it. That has been an issue," Paulwell said.