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Hurricane Beryl Roars Toward Jamaica After Killing at Least 6 People in the Southeast Caribbean
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By Associated Press
Published 1 week ago on
July 3, 2024

As Hurricane Beryl, a powerful Category 4 storm, approaches Jamaica, residents scramble to prepare, following the storm's deadly impact on the southeast Caribbean. (AP/NASA)

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Hurricane Beryl was roaring toward Jamaica on Wednesday, with islanders scrambling to make preparations after the powerful Category 4 storm earlier killed at least six people and caused significant damage in the southeast Caribbean.

In Kingston, people boarded up windows, fishermen pulled their boats out of the water and workers dismantled roadside advertising boards to protect them from the lashing winds.

Kingston resident Pauline Lynch said that she had stockpiled food and water in anticipation of the storm’s arrival. With wind already whipping a light rain, Lynch said, “I have no control over what is coming so I just have to pray that all people of Jamaica is safe and we don’t suffer no deaths, no loss.”

A hurricane warning was in effect for Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Beryl was forecast to weaken slightly over the next day or two, but still be at or near major-hurricane strength when it passes near or over Jamaica on Wednesday, near the Cayman Islands on Thursday and into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Friday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Jamaica was under a state of emergency as the island was declared a disaster zone hours before the impact of Hurricane Beryl.

Government Response and Evacuation Orders

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that the disaster zone declaration will remain for the next seven days. He also announced an island-wide curfew between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

Security forces “will be fully mobilized to maintain public order and assist with disaster relief. As soon as the hurricane has passed, the security forces have developed strategic plans to counter any potential threat of looting or any other opportunistic crimes,” Holness warned.

An evacuation order was also issued for communities across Jamaica that are prone to flooding and landslides. Holness urged Jamaicans to move away from low-lying areas.

A hurricane watch was in effect for Haiti’s southern coast and the Yucatan’s east coast. Belize issued a tropical storm watch stretching south from its border with Mexico to Belize City.

Storm’s Path and Impact

Late Monday, Beryl became the earliest storm to develop into a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic and peaked at winds of 165 mph (270 kph) Tuesday before weakening to a still-destructive Category 4. On Wednesday, the storm was about 75 miles (125 kilometers) southeast of Kingston. It had maximum sustained winds of 145 mph (230 kph) and was moving west-northwest at 18 mph (30 kph).

In Miami, U.S. National Hurricane Center Director Michael Brennan said Jamaica appears to be in the direct path of Beryl. He urged residents to find a safe place to shelter and stay there through Wednesday.

“We are most concerned about Jamaica, where we are expecting the core of a major hurricane to pass near or over the island,” he said in an online briefing.

Storm surge of 6-9 feet (1.8 to 2.7 meters) above typical tide levels are likely in Jamaica, as well as heavy rainfall.

Mexico’s Caribbean coast was preparing for Beryl Wednesday. The government issued a hurricane warning for the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula from Puerto Costa Maya to Cancun.

The head of Mexico’s civil defense agency said that Beryl is expected to make a rare double strike on Mexico. Laura Velázquez said the hurricane is expected to make landfall between late Thursday and early Friday along a relatively unpopulated stretch of the Caribbean coast between Tulum and the inland town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Because the coast there is largely made up of lagoons and mangroves, there are few resorts or hotels in the area south of Tulum.

The hurricane is expected to weaken to a tropical storm as it crosses the Yucatan peninsula and reemerge over the weekend at storm strength into the Gulf of Mexico. Velázquez said that Beryl is then expected to hit Mexican territory a second time in the Gulf coast states of Veracruz or Tamaulipas, near the Texas border.

As Beryl barreled through the Caribbean Sea, rescue crews in southeastern islands fanned out to determine the extent of the damage the hurricane inflicted on Carriacou, an island in Grenada.

Three people were reported killed in Grenada and Carriacou and another in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, officials said. Two other deaths were reported in northern Venezuela, where five people are missing, officials said. About 25,000 people in that area also were affected by heavy rainfall from Beryl.

One fatality in Grenada occurred after a tree fell on a house, Kerryne James, the environment minister, told The Associated Press. She said Carriacou and Petit Martinique sustained the greatest damage, with scores of homes and businesses flattened in Carriacou.

Grenada’s Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell said Tuesday there was no power, roads are impassable and the possible rise of the death toll “remains a grim reality.”

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has promised to rebuild the archipelago. He noted that 90% of homes on Union Island were destroyed, and that “similar levels of devastation” were expected on the islands of Myreau and Canouan.

The last strong hurricane to hit the southeast Caribbean was Hurricane Ivan 20 years ago, which killed dozens of people in Grenada.

Grenada, known as the “spice isle,” is one of the world’s top exporters of nutmeg. Mitchell noted that the bulk of the spices are grown in the northern part of the island, which was hit hardest by Beryl.

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