SANTO DOMINGO – The Dominican Emergency Operations Center (COE) on Wednesday ordered the mandatory evacuation of vulnerable zones in provinces where red alerts have been declared due to the approach of Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm that is moving inexorably toward the Caribbean islands of St. Maarten and Anguilla.
A total of 17 Dominican provinces, including that of Santo Domingo, the capital, are under a red alert, 12 are under a yellow alert and three are on green alert, the latter being the minimum alert level.
The heads of the COE and Civil Defense, Gens. Juan Manuel Mendez and Rafael Antonio Carrasco Paulino, respectively, said at a press conference that buses have been dispatched to evacuate people at risk in the provinces of Santo Domingo, San Pedro de Macoris, San Cristobal, Valverde, Duarte and Monte Plata.
At the same time, they noted that the measure is obligatory and must be obeyed, and they refused to rule out using public security forces to ensure that is complied with, if necessary.
Although they offered no figures on the number of people displaced from their homes, the generals said that some people had already begun to go to the houses of friends and relatives in less vulnerable areas.
For security reasons, authorities began transferring inmates from the Rafey prison to the La Vega prison, both in the northern part of the country.
Dominican emergency authorities said that they have established 3,261 shelters, which have the capacity to temporarily house 900,000 people.
The government has begun implementing several contingency plans to prepare for Irma’s arrival, given that the storm is considered to be the most powerful hurricane ever to develop in the Atlantic and arrived Wednesday morning in the Caribbean region, having arrowed directly west from where it developed off the coast of Africa.
The government on Monday declared itself to be in permanent session until the storm passes, adding that it is prepared to deal with any eventuality.
Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry announced that its rescue, disaster response and humanitarian aid units “are ready” to handle any situation produced by the storm, while the National Police announced Wednesday that all officers had been placed on alert.