Hurricane Beryl churns towards Jamaica, bringing floods; at least two reported killed

BRIDGETOWN (Reuters) – Hurricane Beryl barreled towards Jamaica as a powerful Category 5 storm on Tuesday after making landfall on smaller islands in the Caribbean, downing power lines, bringing floods and reportedly killing two people.

The storm made landfall on Monday on Carriacou island, part of Grenada, where one person was killed, and power was cut island-wide. Another person was reportedly killed in St Vincent, though Reuters could not immediately verify this.

Video from Barbados showed waves pounding the shore of the island, breaching walkways, felling palm trees and flooding roads in the capital Bridgetown.

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the “hurricane has come and gone and it has left in its wake immense destruction”, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said.

“Union Island (part of the Grenadines archipelago) has been devastated,” he said, with “90% of the houses… severely damaged or destroyed”.

Gonsalves confirmed one person had died, and that there could be more fatalities.

Beryl is expected to bring 4 to 12 inches of rainfall to Jamaica on Wednesday, possibly triggering flash floods, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

As of 1200 GMT, the storm, packing winds of up to 165 miles per hour (250 kilometres per hour), was about 625 miles (1,006 km) east-south east of Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, it said.

Dozens of vessels in the storm’s path risk being affected, with diversions seen in the Caribbean, according to Vortexa, which provides energy-cargo tracking data.

The unusually early timing and rapid intensification of the storm, the first in this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, is partly due to warmer ocean temperatures, scientists say.

Jamaica issued a hurricane warning on Monday, while tropical storm warnings were in effect for parts of the southern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The “potentially catastrophic” storm struck the Caribbean region earlier on Tuesday as a Category 4 storm and was expected to bring life-threatening winds and a storm surge to Jamaica.

While it has picked up to a 5 on a five-point scale, it was expected to become less intense later on Tuesday, NHC said, with Beryl’s center forecast to “pass near Jamaica on Wednesday and the Cayman Islands on Thursday”.

Across other islands in the eastern Caribbean, residents had boarded up windows, stocked up on food and fueled up cars ahead of the storm.

Officials in Mexico have begun to prepare for Beryl’s arrival later this week, with the federal government urging authorities and citizens to show “extreme caution.

(Writing by Bernadette Baum; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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