The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has received $13 Million from China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC), towards assisting persons and schools badly affected by Hurricane Sandy. The funds were presented on Friday (November 9) by CHEC’s General Manager for the Caribbean and Latin American region, Zhongdong Tang, at a media briefing held at ODPEM’s head office in Kingston. Director General of ODPEM, Ronald Jackson, in welcoming the donation, expressed delight at the significant gesture to the agency’s Hurricane Sandy Relief and Recovery Fund. Mr. Jackson stated that ODPEM’s focus is on the education sector where some 138 schools have been reported damaged. “What our focus is, is really trying to see if we can find enough partners who can assist in ensuring that our students have a facility to go back into and to continue their learning. We are coming towards the end of a term; but in January the new term starts in earnest. And so it is important to get all our schools back to where they were before Hurricane Sandy hit, and even in better stead,” Mr. Jackson said. The ODPEM head said some schools would have lost roofing simply because they were not properly secured, or the standard was below par, and so “this is an opportunity to build better”. In thanking CHEC, Mr. Jackson expressed a willingness to “continue working with China Harbour, not just in disaster times, but within the work you are currently doing in terms of our infrastructure, and possible opportunities for cooperation and disaster risk management”. CHEC’s Health, Safety and Environmental Engineer, Nadine Tarawali, said the company‘s donation was made in light of the tremendous damage and dislocation suffered by many families during the storm. These, she pointed out, included some of the company’s employees who were unable to turn up for work at the Westmoreland Bridge in St. Mary, where the company has a worksite, after the storm. She stated that the donation is intended to assist in relocating persons, still occupying shelters, back into their homes, as well as facilitate repairs to schools sustaining damage, to enable their re-opening for the resumption of classes for students. She also noted that the company mobilized several pieces of equipment which were utilized clearing and re-opening of the Junction main road that links Kingston and St. Andrew with St. Mary, and so was fully aware of the level of devastation. Ms. Tarawali also expressed pride that the Palisadoes Road in Kingston was not affected by the hurricane and confidently assured that it can withstand up to a category 5 hurricane. China Harbour is the general contractor for the road and bridge building projects under the Jamaica Development Infrastructure Programme (JDIP). The company signed an agreement with the Government of Jamaica in June for the construction of the North-South Highway from Kingston to Ocho Rios that will bypass the problem plagued Bog Walk Gorge and Mount Rosser corridors.