'It's a disaster': Hurricane Beryl batters Jamaica

Jamaica's capital Kingston under the storm. Photo: 3 July 2024
Jamaica's capital Kingston under the storm [Getty Images]

Powerful Hurricane Beryl has hit Jamaica with heavy winds and rain, damaging buildings and felling trees on the Caribbean island.

The category four storm brought winds of up to 130mph (215km/h) on Jamaica's southern coast.

Social media photos show floodwater pouring down streets, with roofs ripped off by the wind.

The storm has killed at least seven people so far as it sweeps across the Caribbean. It has now been downgraded to a category three storm, and is due to make landfall in Mexico later on Friday.

"It's terrible. Everything's gone. I'm in my house and scared," Amoy Wellington, resident of a rural farming community in the southern St Elizabeth parish, was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

"It's a disaster."

Prime Minister Andrew Holness earlier urged people to "take this hurricane seriously".

"If you live in a low-lying area, an area historically prone to flooding and landslide, or if you live on the banks of a river or a gully, I implore you to evacuate to a shelter or to safer ground," he said.

Three people died in Grenada, where it first made landfall on Monday, one in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and another three in northern Venezuela, which was hit by strong winds and flooding.

About 90% of homes were destroyed or severely damaged on Union Island, which is part of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Parts of Jamaica earlier experienced disruption to power and electricity supplies, with the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) saying it was forced to pause restoration of power lines in some locations for the safety of their workers.

In a news briefing, the NHC's director, Dr Michael Brennan, said Jamaica would experience "devastating hurricane force winds".

Rainfall in some parts of the country could hit 12in (30cm), potentially leading to flooding and mudslides, the director explained, while life-threatening storm surges as high as 9ft (2.7m) above tide level are also expected.

"Everybody in Jamaica needs to be in their safe place and be prepared to stay there for at least the next 12 hours," Dr Brennan warned.

People buy supplies at the downtown street market as Hurricane Beryl approaches, in Kingston, Jamaica, July 2, 2024.
People have been stocking up on supplies ahead of the hurricane's impact [Reuters]

The BBC's Nick Davis said Jamaicans had been rushing to supermarkets earlier in the week to get "as much as they could as quickly as they could".

Jamaica's Information Minister Dana Morris Dixon said the island had 900 shelters to house people who needed to leave their homes.

 People stand outside their flooded homes after a river swelled due to heavy rains following the passage of Hurricane Beryl on the road from Cumana to Cumanacoa, Sucre State, Venezuela, on July 2, 2024
Cumanacoa in Venezuela's Sucre state has suffered flooding [Getty Images]

In Venezuela, Hurricane Beryl brought heavy rains which caused a river to overflow in the northern state of Sucre. Three people died and several are still missing.

A government delegation was hit by a falling tree while inspecting damage.

President Nicolás Maduro said Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez was among those injured. He said she was "very bruised but conscious".

In Mexico, where Hurricane Beryl is expected in the coming days, residents in Cancún have rushed to supermarkets to stock up on supplies. Some have encountered empty shelves.

People pictured near partially empty shelves for non-perishable food at a supermarket ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Beryl, in Cancun, Mexico July 2, 2024

The NHC said that Hurricane Beryl had formed much earlier in the hurricane season than usual.

Meteorologists have also remarked on how quickly Beryl developed.

The storm strengthened from a tropical depression into a major hurricane in 42 hours, hurricane expert Sam Lillo told the Associated Press news agency.

Predicted path of Hurricane Beryl

In Texas, officials warned residents to prepare for the possibility of Beryl's arrival this weekend.

On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott told resident's near the state's Atlantic coast to "keep an eye on the gulf" and "have an emergency plan to take care of yourself and your loved ones".

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned that the North Atlantic could get as many as seven major hurricanes this year - up from an average of three in a season.

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