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Hurricane Beryl devastates Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico brace for impact

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Hurricane Beryl, a formidable Category 4 storm, left a trail of devastation in Jamaica before setting its sights on the Cayman Islands and Mexico. The hurricane, which has already claimed at least 10 lives across the Caribbean, intensified the region’s struggle with severe weather, flooding, and power outages.

As Beryl’s eyewall brushed past Jamaica’s southern coast, the island’s residents faced relentless winds and torrential rains. Emergency services scrambled to evacuate flood-prone areas, but the storm’s wrath was unavoidable.

“Everything’s gone. I’m in my house and scared,” lamented Amoy Wellington, a resident from Top Hill, St. Elizabeth parish. The hurricane caused widespread power outages, forced nearly a thousand Jamaicans into shelters, and tragically claimed a life in Hanover parish when a tree fell on a home.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness imposed a curfew that extended into Thursday, and the island’s main airports were closed. The Meteorological Service of Jamaica lifted the hurricane warning but maintained a flash flood watch as the storm departed early Thursday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported Beryl’s eye was about 100 miles west of Kingston by late Wednesday, with its core heading toward the Cayman Islands, packing maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. The hurricane is expected to bring 4-6 inches of rain to the Cayman Islands, where life-threatening surf and rip currents are anticipated. A hurricane warning remains in effect for both the Cayman Islands and the eastern coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

The hurricane’s earlier trajectory saw it wreak havoc on smaller Caribbean islands. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves described Union Island as “flattened” and warned of possible food shortages due to significant agricultural losses. Grenada’s Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell painted a grim picture of “Armageddon-like” conditions, confirming three deaths and extensive destruction. In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro reported three fatalities, four missing persons, and over 8,000 homes damaged.

The destruction caused by Beryl highlights the growing impact of a warming Atlantic Ocean, often attributed to human-caused climate change. The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season has already broken records, with Beryl being the earliest storm on record. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an “extraordinary” season with a high number of major hurricanes.

In anticipation of Beryl’s arrival, residents and tourists in Cancun and Tulum are taking precautions. Workers are filling sandbags and boarding up businesses, while Laura Velazquez, head of Mexico’s civil protection agency, urged tourists to seek shelter in hotel basements.

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