Hurricane Beryl Powers Towards Mexico, Cayman Islands After Battering Jamaica

The storm has left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean, killing at least seven people

Kingston, Jamaica:

Hurricane Beryl powered towards Mexico and the Cayman Islands early Thursday, threatening strong winds and a storm surge after battering Jamaica’s southern coast.

Beryl weakened to a Category 3 storm overnight, sustaining winds of 125 miles (200 kilometres) an hour, but is forecast to be “at or near major hurricane intensity” while it passes by the Caymans, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).

“Strong winds, dangerous storm surge and damaging winds” were expected across the Cayman Islands overnight, the NHC said early Thursday.

The storm has left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean, killing at least seven people and bringing with it flash floods and mudslides as it moves towards Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

The storm is the first since NHC records began to reach the Category 4 level in June and the earliest to reach Category 5 in July.

Mexican officials have scrambled to prepare, with the NHC warning Beryl will remain a hurricane until it makes landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula.

“We will have intense rains and wind gusts” from Thursday, Civil Protection national coordinator Laura Velazquez said, announcing the deployment of hundreds of military personnel, marines and electricity workers in anticipation of damage.

The government has prepared 112 shelters with a capacity for around 20,000 people and suspended school in the state of Quintana Roo, where Beryl will likely hit.

In Jamaica, more than 400,000 people were without power, according to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, citing a public service company.

Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness had declared a curfew from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm across the island of 2.8 million and urged Jamaicans to comply with evacuation orders.

Desmon Brown, manager of the National Stadium in Kingston, said his staff had scrambled to be ready.

“We’ve taped up our windows, covered our equipment — including computers, printers and that sort of thing. Apart from that, it’s mainly concrete so there’s not much we can do,” Brown told the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

‘No communication’

Beryl has already left a trail of death with at least three people killed in Grenada, where the storm made landfall Monday, as well as one in St Vincent and the Grenadines and three in Venezuela.

Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, said that it would take a “herculean effort” to rebuild after the substantial destruction and that “90-odd percent of the houses were blown away” on Union Island.

“Most of the country doesn’t have electricity, and more than half without water at the moment,” he said.

Grenada’s Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell said the island of Carriacou, which was struck by the eye of the storm, has been all but cut off, with houses, telecommunications and fuel facilities there flattened.

The 13.5-square mile (35-square kilometre) island is home to around 9,000 people. At least two people there died, Mitchell said, with a third killed on the country’s main island of Grenada when a tree fell on a house.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, one person on the island of Bequia was reported dead from the storm, while a man died in Venezuela’s northeastern coastal state of Sucre when he was swept away by a flooded river, officials there said.

Climate change

It is extremely rare for such a powerful storm to form this early in the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from early June to late November.

Warm ocean temperatures are key for hurricanes, and North Atlantic waters are currently between two and five degrees Fahrenheit (1-3 degrees Celsius) warmer than normal, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

UN climate chief Simon Stiell, who has family on the island of Carriacou, said climate change was “pushing disasters to record-breaking new levels of destruction.”

“Disasters on a scale that used to be the stuff of science fiction are becoming meteorological facts, and the climate crisis is the chief culprit,” he said Monday, reporting that his parents’ property was damaged.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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