Hurricane Beryl Devastates Caribbean: Cayman Islands Brace for Impact

Hurricane Beryl devastation in the Caribbean

Hurricane Beryl is currently wreaking havoc in the Cayman Islands after causing fatalities and widespread damage in Jamaica. The British overseas territory is experiencing the full impact of the hurricane, which has been causing “utter devastation” across the Caribbean since Monday, nearly obliterating parts of Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Now a Category 3 hurricane with wind speeds reaching 120 mph (193 km/h), Beryl has brought thunderstorms and gale-force winds to the Cayman Islands.

On Thursday, meteorologists reported the hurricane was 50 miles southwest of Grand Cayman and moving away. However, they strongly advised residents to remain sheltered until the all-clear signal was given.

On Wednesday, Beryl made landfall in Jamaica, forcing airport closures and displacing nearly 1,000 people into government-designated shelters. The hurricane’s eyewall grazed Jamaica’s southern coast as a powerful Category 4 storm, tearing off roofs, uprooting electric poles and trees, and causing widespread flooding.

“It’s terrible. Everything’s gone. I’m in my house and scared,” said Amoy Wellington, a 51-year-old cashier from Top Hill in southern St Elizabeth parish. “It’s a disaster.”

Recent reports indicate that many in the country lack water, and officials reported 60% of the population was without electricity on Wednesday night. A man was reported washed away, and a woman died in Hanover when a tree fell on her house, bringing the death toll to at least nine across the affected regions.

Officials in Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines warned the death toll could rise as damage assessments continue on some islands. In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro reported three deaths, four missing, and over 8,000 homes damaged.

Beryl’s projected path includes Mexico’s tourist hubs of Cancún and the Yucatán peninsula. Tourists rushed to catch flights out before the storm’s arrival, while workers prepared sandbags and boarded up businesses. Mexico’s defence ministry established around 120 storm shelters and urged visitors to follow evacuation instructions.

Beryl is the 2024 Atlantic season’s first hurricane and the earliest Category 5 storm on record. The prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines lamented the lack of political action in Western Europe and the US to address the global climate crisis.

Scientists assert that human-induced climate change has increased the frequency of the most intense and destructive tropical storms due to warming oceans. Leaders in the affected regions are seeking support for the extensive rebuilding efforts.

SVG Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves expressed concerns about accessing rebuilding grants, while Grenadian Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell mentioned triggering his country’s catastrophic risk insurance policy. Since Monday, various entities, including Caricom, the UN, and the Commonwealth, have pledged support to the devastated islands.

On Thursday, the Royal Navy announced the deployment of HMS Trent to deliver aid to the Cayman Islands, including bottled water, basic emergency supplies, and equipment.

King Charles has requested regular updates on the situation and is expected to make a substantial donation to the recovery efforts. He expressed profound sadness over the destruction caused by Hurricane Beryl and extended condolences to those who lost loved ones. He also praised the resilience and solidarity of the Caribbean people and expressed gratitude to the emergency services and volunteers aiding in the rescue and recovery efforts.