Hurricane Beryl aims at Mexico tourist hotspots after soaking Jamaica, Caymans

Beryl, now at Category 2 strength, has left behind a deadly trail of destruction across several smaller Caribbean islands over the past few days. It had crossed over the Cayman Islands and was on a path to strike the Mexican beach resort of Tulum.
Last Updated : 05 July 2024, 01:32 IST

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Hurricane Beryl zeroed in on Mexico's top tourist resorts on Thursday evening after churning past the Cayman Islands and belting Jamaica with winds that tore apart buildings and uprooted trees.

Beryl, now at Category 2 strength, has left behind a deadly trail of destruction across several smaller Caribbean islands over the past few days.

It had crossed over the Cayman Islands and was on a path to strike the Mexican beach resort of Tulum, on the Yucatan peninsula's eastern coast, on Thursday night or early Friday.

At least 100 flights were canceled at Cancun's international airport Thursday, as tourists scrambled to catch the last ones out.

Stragglers perused the beach in Cancun on Thursday evening as winds began picking up. In nearby Playa del Carmen, police blocked off beach entrances with yellow caution tape to dissuade visitors ahead of Beryl's arrival.

The unusually fierce, early hurricane was located about 180 miles (290 km) east of Tulum, according to the USNational Hurricane Center (NHC).

Earlier on Thursday, officials in the Cayman Islands issued the all clear after the storm spared them the worst.

"We had ever confidence that the Lord would hear our prayer, and I am absolutely delighted to say that he has delivered us," Premier Juliana O'Connor-Connolly said on Thursday.

Caribbean islands further east were less fortunate. Authorities say at least 11 people have died across Jamaica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in northern Venezuela.

The toll could rise, especially as communications are restored on islands devastated by extensive flooding and powerful winds.

"We're happy to be alive, happy that the damage was not more extensive," said Joseph Patterson, a bee keeper in the southwestern Jamaican town of Bogue. He described felled power lines, roads blocked with debris and "tremendous damage" to farms.

Beryl's center skirted Jamaica's southern coast, pummeling communities as a powerful Category 4 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale before weakening slightly later on Thursday.

There were two deaths in Jamaica related to the storm, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in an interview on CBC on Thursday.

Still, most Jamaicans were "giving thanks," Holness said, after having "escaped the worst".

Beryl's maximum sustained winds had dipped to 110 mph (177 kph), and it was forecast to dump 4-6 inches (10-15 centimeters) of rain on Mexico's Yucatan late Thursday and into Friday, with as much as 10 inches in some places, the NHC said.

The hurricane center expects the storm to weaken rapidly as it crosses the Yucatan peninsula early Friday, but is seen getting stronger when Beryl moves over the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm is expected to move toward northeastern Mexico and southern Texas late in the weekend, the NHC said.

Tourists beware

Mexico's top tourist destination Cancun is a short distance from Tulum, both located where Beryl is forecast to cross.

Around 3,000 tourists had been evacuated from Isla Mujeres back to the mainland near Cancun, the island's tourism director Jose Magana said.

Workers could be seen filling up sand bags and boarding up shop and hotel doors and windows.

Fisherman Jose Martin was one of several who docked his boat in Cancun ahead of Beryl's arrival.

"It affects us a good deal because, first, we can't work, and second, we need to find shelter, so it's not good," Martin said.

Schools in the state of Quintana Roo were closed Thursday and Friday. Mexico's defense ministry opened around 120 storm shelters in the area, ahead of expected flooding.

Government workers in Cancun on Wednesday saved over 10,000 turtle eggs that were at risk of being swept away.

Residents in Tulum lined up at gas stations to fill their tanks and additional containers, while hotels and tourist complexes removed loose furniture and equipment.

Mexico's major oil platforms, most of which are clustered around the southern Gulf of Mexico's shallow waters, are not expected to be shut down or otherwise affected.

Offshore oil projects to the north, in U.S. territorial waters, could be hit, according to the hurricane's expected trajectory.

Chevron Corp said on Thursday that non-essential personnel from its Gulf of Mexico facilities, including workers at its Anchor platform, are being removed due to the approaching storm.

Beryl is the 2024 Atlantic season's first hurricane and at its peak earlier this week was the earliest Category 5 storm on

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecast a large number of major hurricanes in what it has predicted will be an "extraordinary" storm season this year. The season runs from the start of June to the end of November

Beryl's destructive power, coming so early in the hurricane season, underscores the consequences of a warmer Atlantic Ocean. Scientists say human-caused climate change is fueling extreme weather.

Published 05 July 2024, 01:32 IST

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