Hurricane Beryl: Storm heads towards Cancun as Royal Navy sends aid ship

The Royal Navy has sent a warship to help with Hurricane Beryl relief efforts - as the deadly storm heads towards Mexico.

The former category five storm first slammed into the Caribbean earlier this week and on Thursday was continuing to sweep west across the Caribbean Sea.

Widespread damage on multiple islands has been reported and at least nine people have died.

The Ministry of Defence said offshore patrol vessel HMS Trent had been sent to the Cayman Islands to help and was scheduled to arrive this weekend.

The warship, which departed from Puerto Rico on Wednesday, is carrying supplies of bottled water, basic emergency supplies and other equipment.

More than 50 sailors on board will also help with reconnaissance and damage assessment of affected communities.

Read more: Storm Beryl survivor: 'We were all scared'

It came as the King sent his "heartfelt condolences" to the people of the Caribbean.

He said in a statement: "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."

The royal added: "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."

Sky News understands the King is to make a donation to the relief efforts, with the Prince and Princess of Wales doing the same. The monarch also hopes to speak to regional leaders in the coming days.

So far, three deaths from the hurricane have been reported in Grenada, along with another three in Venezuela, two in Jamaica and one in St Vincent & the Grenadines.

The storm has now weakened to a category three storm but residents and holidaymakers have still been warned to brace themselves for when it makes landfall in Mexico on Friday.

Tourist hotspots on the country's Yucatan peninsula have been making preparations, including boarding doors and windows, while also stockpiling sandbags for flood defences.

Cancun's airport is said to be extremely busy with tourists hoping to catch the final flights out of the region before the storm arrives, while Mexico's government has opened around 120 shelters.

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In Jamaica, the island's main airports have been closed and streets are mostly empty after Prime Minister Andrew Holness issued a curfew for Wednesday, which was extended to Thursday as the conditions continued.

More than 90% of buildings on Union Island, which is part of St Vincent and the Grenadines, have been destroyed, while conditions in Grenada were described as "Armageddon-like" by its Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell.

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

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned hurricane season this year - which runs from June to November - will be "extraordinary" this year.

Hurricane Beryl has already broken several records, including when it formed the farthest east for a storm of its kind in the tropical Atlantic in June.

Scientists have said climate change has made more intense, and earlier, storms more likely.