Hurricane Beryl barrels through Cayman Islands after battering Jamaica

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Hurricane Beryl is barrelling through the Cayman Islands after causing death and destruction in Jamaica.

The British overseas territory is bearing the brunt of the hurricane, which has been causing “utter devastation” in the Caribbean since Monday, when it almost destroyed parts of Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Now a category 3 hurricane with wind speeds of up to 120mph (193km/h), Beryl has brought thunderstorms and gale forces winds to the Cayman Islands.

Earlier on Thursday, meteorologists said the hurricane was 50 miles south-west of Grand Cayman and moving away from the island. However, they issued strong reminders to stay sheltered until the all-clear was given.

On Wednesday, Beryl touched down in Jamaica, forcing airports to close and sending nearly 1,000 people into government-designated shelters.

A woman looks at a beach covered in debrisView image in fullscreen

The hurricane’s eyewall skirted Jamaica’s southern coast as a powerful category 4 storm, ripping off roofs, uprooting electric poles and trees and causing widespread flooding.

“It’s terrible. Everything’s gone. I’m in my house and scared,” said Amoy Wellington, a 51-year-old cashier who lives in Top Hill, a rural farming community in southern St Elizabeth parish. “It’s a disaster.”

According to the most recent reports, many people in the country are without water, and on Wednesday night, officials said 60% of the population was without electricity.

On Wednesday evening, there were reports of a man being washed away, and confirmation that a woman had died in the parish of Hanover after a tree toppled on her house, bringing the death toll to at least nine across the countries affected by the hurricane.

But officials in the multi-island countries of Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) have said the death toll could increase as they struggle to assess the damage on some islands.

In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro told state television three people had died, four were missing, and more than 8,000 homes had been damaged.

Mexico’s tourist centres of Cancún and the wider Yucatán peninsula lie in Beryl’s predicted path. Cancún’s airport was thronged with tourists hoping to catch the last flights out before the storm arrived. Workers filled bags with sand and boarded up doors and windows of businesses for protection.

Aerial image of damaged coastal housesView image in fullscreen

Mexico’s defence ministry opened about 120 storm shelters and asked visitors to heed instructions on evacuation or other measures.

Beryl is the 2024 Atlantic season’s first hurricane and at its peak earlier this week was the earliest category 5 storm on record. The prime minister of SVG has decried a lack of political will in western Europe and the US to tackle the global climate crisis.

Scientists say human-caused climate breakdown has increased the occurrence of the most intense and destructive tropical storms, because warming oceans provide more energy and increase their strength.

As the storm charts its deadly course through the region, leaders are seeking support for what they describe as the “herculean effort to rebuild”.

The SVG prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, expressed his concern about accessing grants to rebuild, while his Grenadian counterpart, Dickon Mitchell, told reporters he was hoping to trigger his country’s catastrophic risk insurance policy.

Two girls sit on a pink suitcase as adults with bags and suitcases stand nearbyView image in fullscreen

Since Monday, individuals, groups, countries and regional and international organisations, including the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the UN, and the Commonwealth, have pledged support to the devastated islands.

On Thursday, the Royal Navy said it would deploy its warship HMS Trent to deliver aid, including bottled water, basic emergency supplies, and equipment to the Cayman Islands.

King Charles has asked to be kept closely informed of the developing situation, and it is understood he will be making a substantial donation to the disaster recovery and relief efforts.

In a message to the people of the Caribbean who had been affected by Beryl, he said: “My family and I have been profoundly saddened to learn of the dreadful destruction caused by Hurricane Beryl across the Caribbean. Above all, we send our heartfelt condolences to the friends and families of those who have so cruelly lost their lives.

“I have seen the extraordinary spirit of resilience and solidarity that people across the Caribbean have shown in response to such destruction – a spirit which has been called upon too often – and so I also send my particular gratitude to the emergency services and volunteers who are supporting the rescue and recovery efforts.

“At this most difficult of times, please know that our most special thoughts and prayers are with all those whose lives, livelihoods and property have been so utterly devastated.”


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