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Hurricane Beryl steams towards Cayman Islands, Mexico after striking Jamaica

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Hurricane Beryl steamed towards the Cayman Islands and Mexico on Thursday, after thrashing Jamaica with intense wind and rain, causing floods and power outages after forging a destructive path across smaller Caribbean islands over the past couple of days.

Beryl is the 2024 Atlantic season's first hurricane and the earliest storm on record. 

Hurricane Beryl steamed towards the Cayman Islands and Mexico on Thursday, after thrashing Jamaica with intense wind and rain, causing floods and power outages after forging a destructive path across smaller Caribbean islands over the past couple of days.

The death toll from the powerful Category 4 hurricane climbed to at least 10 across the region, and is widely expected to rise further as communications return on islands damaged by flooding and deadly winds.

As Beryl moved away from Jamaica early on Thursday, the island discontinued its hurricane warning but kept a flash flood watch, the Meteorological Service of Jamaica said on X.

By late Wednesday, the storm's eye was about 100 miles (161 km) west of Kingston, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC), as its core headed toward the Cayman Islands.

Packing maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (209 kph), Beryl was expected to dump 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) of rain on the Cayman Islands into Thursday, where a hurricane warning was in effect and life-threatening surf and rip currents were possible, NHC said.

A hurricane warning was also in force for the eastern coast of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.

Around 0900 GMT, the Category 3 hurricane was just 55 miles from Grand Cayman and about 440 miles off Tulum Mexico, NHC said.

JAMAICA

Beryl's eyewall skirted Jamaica's southern coast, pummeling communities as emergency groups evacuated people from flood-prone areas.

"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."

A woman died in Jamaica's Hanover parish after a tree fell on her home, Richard Thompson, acting director general at Jamaica's disaster agency said in an interview on local news.

Nearly a thousand Jamaicans were in shelters by Wednesday evening, Thompson added.

The island's main airports were closed and streets were mostly empty after Prime Minister Andrew Holness issued a curfew for Wednesday, which was extended Thursday as storm conditions continued.

WARMING OCEAN

The loss of life and damage wrought by Beryl underscores the consequences of a warmer Atlantic Ocean, which scientists cite as a sign of human-caused climate change fueling extreme weather.

Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said in a radio interview that the country's Union Island was "flattened" by Beryl and that it would "be a Herculean effort to rebuild."

Nerissa Gittens-McMillan, permanent secretary at St. Vincent and the Grenadines' agriculture ministry, warned on state media of possible food shortages after half the country's plantain and banana crops were lost, with significant losses also to root crops and vegetables.

Power outages were widespread across Jamaica, while some roads near the coast were washed out.

'ARMAGEDDON-LIKE'

Confirmed fatalities included at least three in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a senior official told Reuters, where Union Island suffered destruction of more than 90% of buildings.

In Grenada, Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell described "Armageddon-like" conditions with no power and widespread destruction, while also confirming three deaths.

In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro told state television that three people had died and four were missing, with over 8,000 homes damaged.

Beryl is the 2024 Atlantic season's first hurricane and the earliest storm on record. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has forecast a large number of major hurricanes in an "extraordinary" season this year.

In tourist epicenter Cancun, workers filled bags with sand and boarded up doors and windows of businesses for protection and officials said supplies of wooden boards were dwindling.

Laura Velazquez, head of Mexico's civil protection agency, encouraged tourists in Cancun and nearby Tulum to hunker down in hotel basements as the storm approached, in comments to local broadcaster Milenio.

By Zahra Burton

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