Hurricane Beryl threatens Haiti and Dominican Republic


Hurricane Beryl barrelled toward Jamaica as a powerful Category 4 storm on Tuesday, threatening to dump rain on parts of Hispaniola after leaving at least three people dead on smaller islands in the eastern Caribbean.

Tropical storm conditions were expected on parts of the southern coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Tuesday evening, according to an advisory from the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).

"Beryl is expected to bring life-threatening winds and storm surge to Jamaica on Wednesday and the Cayman Islands Wednesday night and Thursday," the NHC said. A hurricane warning is in effect for both places.

In Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince, which is in the grips of entrenched gang violence and an ongoing humanitarian crisis, strong winds took residents by surprise on Tuesday afternoon.

The country's southwestern peninsula could get 10-20 cm of rain, with as much as 30 centimetres in some places, the NHC said. New Haitian Prime Minister Garry Conille warned residents to take precautions and stay alert.

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.

"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," he added.

The prime minister confirmed one death, and said more fatalities could be confirmed in the coming days.

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.

"The situation is grim. 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 were attributed to the impact of Beryl so far.

The hurricane, packing maximum sustained winds of 241 kph, is currently located about 579 km east-southeast of the Jamaican capital of Kingston, according the NHC.

The Miami-based hurricane centre estimates that the massive weather system is moving toward the west-northwest at a speed of 35 kph.

In Fort-de-France on the French Caribbean island of Martinique, north of St. Vincent, video shared on social media showed heavy flooding in the streets as locals attempted to clear away debris.

In addition to Haiti's southern coast, the NHC also posted a hurricane watch for Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, dotted with beach resorts popular with tourists.

Ahead of the storm's approach expected 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 4,900 troops on guard on the peninsula.

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