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CatastropheSaint Lucia

Hurricane Beryl batters Caribbean with Category 5 winds

Published July 2, 2024last updated July 2, 2024

Hurricane Beryl destroyed homes on islands from Grenada to St Lucia. Authorities have warned people to exercise caution over the coming days because the storm strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane.

A damaged boat in Barbados
Hurricane Beryl disrupted some fishing activityImage: Ricardo Mazalan/AP/picture alliance

Hurricane Beryl left a trail of death and destruction across the Caribbean after it made landfall on Monday.

At least four people were reported killed due to the storm, three in Grenada and Carriacou and another in St Vincent and the Grenadines, officials said. The AFP news agency added that a fifth person died in Venezuela.

Beryl was forecast to weaken slightly later on Tuesday. However, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that the hurricane was still on track to hit Jamaica on Wednesday with life-threatening winds, rain and flash flooding.

Biden: US ready to help areas hit by Hurricane Beryl

The storm, which was updated to a Category 5 status, ripped doors off their frames, shattered windows and upended roofs of people's homes, scattering debris from Grenada up to St Lucia.

"This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation. Take action now to protect your life!" the US National Hurricane Center said on Monday.

"Beryl is expected to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane as it moves across the Caribbean Sea later this week."

Hurricane Beryl intensifies in the Caribbean

What do we know about the damage?

Authorities in Caribbean countries issued warnings as Beryl moved north, including a hurricane warning in Jamaica and a tropical storm warning in Haiti.

"We have to wait this monster out," said St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. 

The prime minister of Grenada, Dickon Mitchell, said the island of Carriacou — which the NHC said took a direct hit from the storm — has been all but cut off, with houses, telecommunications and fuel facilities there flattened.

"We've had virtually no communication with Carriacou in the last 12 hours except briefly this morning by satellite phone," he told a news conference.

Debris on the road in Barbados
Hurricane Beryl left debris strewn across Barbados and other islands in the Lesser AntillesImage: Nigel R Browne/REUTERS

Meanwhile, Venezuela's powerful Vice President Delcy Rodriguez was struck by a falling tree while overseeing the cleanup in the coastal state of Sucre.

"She was hit hard, but she is conscious," President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday.

"She is strong. She has just written to me and sends her regards." 

Unseasonably strong

Beryl is the earliest Category 5 observed in the Atlantic basin on record and only the second Category 5 hurricane in July after Hurricane Emily in 2005, according to the National Hurricane Center.

It could dump 4 inches to 8 inches (10 cm to 20 cm) of rain on Wednesday, rising to as much as 12 inches (31 cm) in some areas, it said.

"Only five major [Category 3 or higher] hurricanes have been recorded in the Atlantic before the first week of July," hurricane expert Michael Lowry said on social media.

Experts said the unusual weather pattern was in part a result of climate change.

"Climate change is loading the dice for more intense hurricanes to form," Christopher Rozoff from the National Center for Atmospheric Research told Reuters.

Hurricane Beryl
Hurricane Beryl was unusually powerful for the time yearImage: Ricardo Mazalan/AP/picture alliance

Wild weather like this is predicted to continue in the future.

"This is the type of storm that we expect this year, these outlier things that happen when and where they shouldn't," University of Miami tropical weather researcher Brian McNoldy told the Associated Press.

"Not only for things to form and intensify and reach higher intensities, but increase the likelihood of rapid intensification. All of that is just coming together right now, and this won't be the last time."

zc/rm (AP, Reuters, AFP)