Miércoles 3 de Julio 2024

Beryl leaves seven dead in its wake across the Eastern Caribbean

Créditos: Thousands were affected by Hurricane Beryl. Photo: AFP
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As it headed towards Jamaica, Hurricane Beryl slightly weakened to Category 4, the second-highest level. Forecasts warn of potentially deadly winds and storms after causing at least seven deaths and widespread destruction in the southeastern Caribbean region.

According to authorities reports, the hurricane left at least three dead in Grenada, one in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and three in Venezuela. The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) indicated in its report that Beryl is expected to weaken off the coast of Jamaica. Still, it warned that it would strike the island as a near-major storm with potentially deadly winds, storm surges, rain, and flash floods.

The NHC issued a hurricane warning for Jamaica, which is preparing with emergency shelters in Montego Bay and secure facilities in Kingston, according to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper. 

"I urge all Jamaicans to stock up on food, batteries, candles, and water. Secure your important documents and remove any trees or objects that could endanger your property," said Prime Minister Andrew Holness on X.

The NHC also forecasted storm surges on the southern coasts of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, where the Dominican Republic and Haiti are located.

The hurricane has caused significant flooding. Photo: AFP 

Assessing the damage in the region

However, the damage had already been done in other parts of the Caribbean. After losing some intensity over the weekend, Beryl strengthened again on Monday, reaching the highest category on the Saffir-Simpson scale when it hit the island of Carriacou in Grenada, home to 9,000 inhabitants. 

"In half an hour, Carriacou was devastated. We have virtually no communication with Carriacou for the past 12 hours," stated Grenadian Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell.

Under a state of emergency, Carriacou experienced telecommunications and power outages, with homes and fuel supply stations destroyed. Two people died there, and a third person died on the main island of Grenada when a tree fell on a house. In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro assessed the damage from Beryl on the country's northeastern coast. 

"At this hour, the death of three people is confirmed, two men and one woman... Four people are missing: two men and two women. Search efforts are underway," Maduro said. He also reported 80 families in shelters and about 1,800 affected homes.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also suffered catastrophic winds and potentially deadly storm surges, leaving destruction, desolation, and at least one dead, according to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who clarified that there could be more victims.

In the Dominican Republic, enormous waves crashed against the coast along Santo Domingo as the storm passed south of the country. A regional Caribbean Community (CARICOM) meeting in Grenada was postponed. The NHC urged the Cayman Islands, several areas of the Yucatán Peninsula, and the Gulf of Mexico to take extreme measures as Beryl advances.

Barbados, the easternmost of the Windward Islands, escaped the worst and only experienced strong winds and torrential rains. Flooded homes and damaged fishing boats were reported in Bridgetown, though no injuries were reported. On the French island of Martinique, there is a tropical storm warning, and about 10,000 households lost power in various areas.

One of the Most Powerful Hurricanes

Beryl is the first hurricane of the 2024 Atlantic season, which runs from early June to late November. Experts say it is unusual for such a powerful cyclone to form early in the season.

"Only five major hurricanes (Category 3+) have been recorded in the Atlantic before the first week of July," noted expert Michael Lowry on X.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also predicted an extraordinary season at the end of May, with the possibility of four to seven Category 3 or higher hurricanes.

Warm ocean temperatures are key to hurricanes, and the waters of the North Atlantic are currently 1-3 degrees Celsius warmer than normal, according to NOAA.

"It is clear that the climate crisis is driving natural disasters to new record levels of destruction," said Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the UN Climate Change Fund.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed concern for the region and, through a message on X, said that the entity is ready to support national authorities with any health needs.

Due to climate change, extreme weather events, including hurricanes, have become more frequent and devastating in recent years.

With information from AFP.