Three dead as Hurricane Beryl rips through Caribbean

Maria Alejandra Cardona and Harold Isaac |

Devastating winds and storm surges from Hurricane Beryl smashed boats in Barbados.
Devastating winds and storm surges from Hurricane Beryl smashed boats in Barbados.

Hurricane Beryl is barrelling towards Jamaica as a powerful category 4 storm after flattening homes and devastating agriculture on smaller islands in the eastern Caribbean, killing at least three people.

The hurricane was about 300km east-southeast of the Jamaican capital of Kingston early on Wednesday, according the US National Hurricane Center, packing maximum sustained winds of 230km/h.

“Beryl is expected to bring life-threatening winds and storm surge to Jamaica on Wednesday and the Cayman Islands Wednesday night and Thursday,” the centre said in an advisory.

A hurricane warning is in effect for both places.

Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the coast of Jamaica about midday, local time, with tropical storm-strength winds from the late morning, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous, it said.

A worker chops a tree uprooted by Hurricane Beryl in Barbados
Hurricane Beryl is leaving a trail of destruction, with maximum sustained winds of 230km/h. (AP PHOTO)

In the capital Kingston, cars queued at petrol stations as people filled additional containers with fuel. 

Residents stocked up on water and other essential supplies and boarded up shops and houses.

“Yeah right now (we’re) worrying about the storm. You know it’s category 5 and in Jamaica people are worried and always shopping and buying things as in this store,” Andre, a salesperson in a local store said, without giving his full name.

The unusually early hurricane, whose rapid strengthening scientists said was likely fuelled by human-caused climate change, is expected to still be a hurricane when it passes near Jamaica and the Cayman Islands later this week.

Beryl, the 2024 Atlantic season’s first hurricane and the earliest storm on record to reach the highest category on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, felled power lines and unleashed flash floods across smaller islands.

The storm hit St Vincent and the Grenadines especially hard, according to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

Evacuees from Union Island arrive in Kingstown
The Grenadines archipelago was hit particularly hard by the storm. (AP PHOTO)

“The hurricane has come and gone, and it has left in its wake immense destruction,” he said. 

On one island in the Grenadines archipelago, Union Island, 90 per cent of homes had been “severely damaged or destroyed”, with the prime minister confirmed one death – a figure that could rise.

In a video briefing on Tuesday, Grenada’s prime minister, Dickon Mitchell, stressed that Carriacou and Petite Martinique, two of the three islands that make up the country, bore the brunt of the natural disaster, calling the situation “Armageddon-like”.

“There is no power. There is almost complete destruction of homes and buildings,” he said, citing impassable roads due to downed power lines and destroyed fuel stations crimping supplies.

Mitchell said at least two deaths had been attributed to the impact of Beryl.

The Miami-based US hurricane centre estimates that the massive weather system is moving west-northwest at a speed of 35km/h.

Waves from Hurricane Beryl hit the seawall in Santo Domingo
Climate change probably contributed to the early formation of Hurricane Beryl, scientists say. (AP PHOTO)

In Fort-de-France on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, north of St Vincent, video shared on social media showed flooded streets and locals attempting to clear away debris.

As well as Haiti’s southern coast, the NHC also declared a hurricane watch for Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, dotted with beach resorts popular with tourists.

Before the storm’s approach expected on Thursday night, Mexico’s defence ministry said the army, air force and national guard had activated emergency response protocols in the three Yucatan states, with 120 shelters opened and nearly 4900 troops on guard on the peninsula. 

In resort town of Cancun, supplies of the wooden boards used to protect shop fronts were dwindling as residents prepared for Beryl’s arrival.

The unusually early timing and rapid intensification of the storm is partly due to warmer ocean temperatures, scientists say.

Climate change probably contributed to Beryl’s early formation and the speed with which it intensified, according to scientists surveyed by Reuters, which could provide an unsettling preview of future storms.