One dead as Hurricane Beryl upgraded to category 5

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Hurricane Beryl has made landfall in the Caribbean with maximum winds of 260km/h.
Hurricane Beryl has made landfall in the Caribbean with maximum winds of 260km/h.

At least one person has been killed as Hurricane Beryl strengthened to Category 5 status, ripping doors, windows and roofs off homes across the southeastern Caribbean with devastating winds.

The hurricane was located about 1355km east-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, packing maximum sustained winds of 260km/h, the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) reported.

Grenada’s Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell said one person had died and authorities had not been able to assess the situation on the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique. There were initial reports of major damage but communications were largely down.

Mitchel added the government will send officials on Tuesday morning to evaluate the situation on the islands.

Streets from St Lucia island south to Grenada were strewn with shoes, trees, downed power lines and other debris. Banana trees were snapped in half and cows lay dead in green pastures with homes made of tin and plywood tilting precariously nearby.

“Right now, I’m real heartbroken,” said Vichelle Clark King as she surveyed her damaged shop in the Barbadian capital of Bridgetown that was filled with sand and water.

Boats damaged by Hurricane Beryl
Hurricane Beryl has wreaked havoc across Barbados. (AP PHOTO)

Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves told NBC Radio that “destructive Hurricane Beryl has come and gone and has caused immense destruction”.

He said it had affected hundreds of families, adding that 90 per cent of houses across the islands had been damaged or destroyed.

“While our agencies are desperately trying to re-establish communications with certain sections and determine the extent of the damage,” Gonsalves said.

Beryl is expected to dump eight to 15 cm of rain across Barbados and the Windward Islands with some areas seeing as much as 25cm, especially in the Grenadines and Grenada, the NHC said.

Moving west-northwest at a speed of 33km/h, Beryl is expected to pass near Jamaica on Wednesday, the hurricane centre said.

“Beryl is expected to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane as its moves over the eastern Caribbean,” the NHC said, adding that “rainfall may cause flash flooding in vulnerable areas.

Barbados Tropical Weather
Beryl is expected to bring up to 25cm of rain across parts of Barbados and the Windward Islands. (AP PHOTO)

The centre said fluctuations were likely but Beryl was expected to stay near major hurricane intensity as it moved into the central Caribbean and passed near Jamaica on Wednesday.

The last strong hurricane to hit the southeast Caribbean was Hurricane Ivan 20 years ago, which killed dozens of people in Grenada.

Historic Hurricane Beryl strengthened from a tropical depression to a major hurricane in just 42 hours, which only six other Atlantic hurricanes have done, according to hurricane expert Sam Lillo.

It also was the earliest Category 4 Atlantic hurricane, eclipsing Hurricane Dennis, which became a Category 4 storm on July 8, 2005.

Reuters/AP/DPA/EFE

Reuters