Communications Minister Vasant Bharath, at a Cabinet media briefing, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will work out the arrangements to have the funds disbursed. “The government of Nepal has declared a state of emergency, and has requested international assistance in dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake,” Bharath said at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.
“Given the extent of the damage caused by the earthquake and the requirement from the Government of Nepal, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, demonstrating its solidarity with, and goodwill towards Nepal will contribute the sum of (US) $150,000 to the emergency appeal of the International Federation of the Red Cross.”
Bharath said eight million persons were affected, with 500,000 persons displaced. Four million require food aid. Urgent assistance to approximately one million children is required. There have been significant losses in the housing stock, infrastructure, sanitation and health facilities. The long-term rebuilding cost has been put at US$5 billion.
Bharath said the Red Cross is seeking to urgently raise US$35 million for food, water, shelter and sanitisation assistance for more than 75,000 vulnerable people.
He said the UN, US, China and India have begun to provide aid, while Australia, Canada, Italy, Israel, Japan, Norway, Pakistan, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, UK and the EU have pledged to do so.
Bharath was asked about concerns from local seismologists who have said Trinidad and Tobago is due for a major earthquake and have questioned the state of preparedness. He said having earthquake-proof buildings was currently not a compulsory requirement of Town and Country planning approvals. As a result, he said, Housing Development Corporation (HDC) houses are not necessarily earthquake-proof.
“They are not to my knowledge earthquake-proof at this point in time, because that is not what they were intended for when they were originally built,” Bharath said. “We are not in a particularly dangerous location where we are prone to earthquakes, therefore Town and Country does not require earthquake-proof buildings. However once the building code comes into effect it is likely there would be certain terrains where you would have to ensure that the building is earthquake proof.”
Efforts to contact HDC managing director, Jearlean John, were unsuccessful. Bharath said the Office for Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) briefed the National Security Council one month ago on matters related of disaster preparedness. The minister said poor building practices have occurred over the years. “There is a lot of building that has taken place over many years for which there is no planning permission,” Bharath said. “People have gone on private lands, state lands, they have squatted, they have put up structures that are not structurally safe.