Home News Hurricane Beryl sweeps across the Caribbean, leaving islands in desperate need of...

Hurricane Beryl sweeps across the Caribbean, leaving islands in desperate need of cleanup

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Hurricane Beryl, the earliest Category 5 hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, swept into new areas of the Caribbean, flattening islands and flooding communities there, and continued to move toward Mexico on Thursday.

In Jamaica, residents emerging from shelters saw destroyed farmland, damaged homes and roads littered with fallen utility poles and leaves.

“The whole place is in chaos,” Steve Taylor, a resident of the low-lying coastal town of Mitchell, told a local television station.

St Elizabeth, home to the country’s breadbasket, was the worst hit. “The southwestern area of ​​St Elizabeth is facing total devastation,” said Jamaican Agriculture Minister Floyd Green.

However, despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Beryl, Jamaican officials surveying the damage say the situation could have been much worse.

“The damage was not as bad as we expected, so we are very grateful,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness said. Tell CNN Thursday. “I don’t think Jamaica has been hit the hardest.”

Officials said the death toll in the Caribbean appeared to be low so far, with about eight fatalities reported. The storm first made landfall in Grenada on Monday.

On Thursday, the storm weakened as it moved westward, reaching Category 2 strength with winds up to 115 mph.

With dangerous winds, storm surges and heavy rainfall forecast, Mexican authorities are unwilling to take any risks.

The government said Thursday it had deployed more than 13,000 workers and members of the military, as well as rescue dogs, and set up mobile kitchens and water treatment plants in Quintana Roo, the southern state facing the Caribbean Sea that is likely to be the first to feel the storm’s impact.

Partial evacuations were underway in Tulum and Puerto Felipe Carrillo, where officials feared those areas would bear the brunt of the storm.

In the popular resort of Cancun, yachts gathered in inland waterways for protection.

Anders Aasen and his family arrived at Cancun International Airport in Mexico on Thursday after a nearly 24-hour flight from Norway, unaware that a hurricane would also arrive there a few hours later.

“The hotel didn’t tell us what was going to happen or what we were supposed to do,” said Mr. Asen, a 42-year-old entrepreneur who was planning to travel to Cancun and Tulum with his wife and three children. He said his family had already spent $20,000 on the trip.

Most tourists arriving at the airport on Thursday said they had received no advance information about the storm, and that travel agencies and hotels had not informed them of safety measures.

In the Gulf of Mexico, Shell Oil Co. said it was evacuating nonessential workers from its floating oil platform, called Perdido, about 200 miles south of Galveston, Texas, in about 8,000 feet of water. The company said the hurricane had “no other impacts to our production.”

Forecasters predicted Mexico would be hit not once but twice by the hurricane, which will first hit the Yucatan Peninsula on Friday before crossing the Gulf of Mexico to the coast of the northern state of Tamaulipas.

Caymanians were mostly relieved Thursday morning after Hurricane Beryl passed over the islands as a Category 3 storm but missed making landfall. No major damage or injuries were reported, but officials said they were still assessing the full impact of the storm.

Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University who specializes in tropical cyclones, said the storm is the earliest Category 5 hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. The previous record was set by Hurricane Emily on July 17, 2005, he said.

Meteorologists say Hurricane Beryl’s rapid intensification is a direct result of above-average sea surface temperatures and a harbinger of a particularly tough hurricane season ahead.

In Jamaica, power and water are slowly being restored in hard-hit areas: the eastern and southern parishes of the capital, Kingston, Portland and other communities. Representatives of the main providers told local news media that more than 60% of customers were without water and electricity as of Thursday morning. Mobile phone service remains unavailable in much of the country.

Jamaica’s transport minister said Sangster International Airport in the tourist area of ​​Montego Bay was expected to reopen later on Thursday. A statementBut the main airport, Norman Manley, remains closed for maintenance but is expected to reopen on Friday.

The government said public sector workers could return to work and some businesses had called back employees. The Central Bank of Jamaica said banks would be closed until Friday. Schools have begun their summer break.

On islands harder hit by the storm, rebuilding appears to be a far more daunting task, especially in Grenada. Satellite images show homes and buildings flattened and without roofs, with Carriacou and Petite Martinique suffering the greatest damage. Officials say about 98% of buildings there were destroyed.

Argyle is a popular tourist town in Carriacou with dozens of holiday homes. Photos from before and after the disaster show buildings reduced to ruins. The island’s pier, usually full of boats, was now empty. Satellite images showed damage to the northeastern coastline of Carriacou continuing inland.

The Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association said tourism is one of the island’s main sources of income and the airport and some hotels have reopened as cleanup efforts begin.

Lindsay Chuttle, Daphne Ewing Chow, Johnny Diaz and Ricardo Hernandez Ruiz Contributed reporting.

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