Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has vowed to restore order after fighting between police, the military and drug gangs claimed the lives of at least 60 people.
According to the local hospitals, the dead and the injured were mainly civilians caught up in the gun battles as the police and army continue their search for suspected drug baron Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who is wanted in the United States on drug-trafficking charges.
Police have officially put the death toll at 27, but Mr Golding warned the figures would inevitably rise. Hospital confirmed they had received about 50 dead bodies and witnesses told of a truck with another 12 corpses on board.
The Jamaican government has declared a state of emergency in the capital while the Foreign Office (FCO) is advising against all but essential travel to the capital and the British High Commission has been temporarily closed.
However the main tourist areas remain safe and well isolated from the trouble hotspots, more than 100 miles from Kingston.
John Lynch, the Jamaica Tourist Board’s director of tourism, said: “Travellers to the north coast of Jamaica – the main areas including Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Port Antonio, Negril and the south coast are some four hours away from the area of concern. Tourist areas remain safe, and normal daily activities continue in the resort areas, and cruise port facilities.”
The islands two international airports remain open, Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport and Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, although several flights that would arrive at night have been cancelled for security reasons.
“We have made these flight adjustments to ensure the safety of our passengers and staff especially when travelling at night or early morning, due to the present security concerns in Kingston” said Bruce Nobles, Air Jamaica’s president and CEO. “All other Air Jamaica flights are operating as scheduled.”
Prime Minister Golding said police would continue searching for illegal guns and crime suspects.
“The government deeply regrets the loss of lives of members of the security forces, and those of innocent law abiding citizens who were caught in the cross fire,” he told the House of Representatives.