Beryl heads for Texas after causing damage, no deaths in Mexico

Damage caused by Hurricane Beryl in Puerto Aventuras in Mexico's Quintana Roo state (Elizabeth RUIZ)
Damage caused by Hurricane Beryl in Puerto Aventuras in Mexico's Quintana Roo state (Elizabeth RUIZ)

Beryl weakened to a tropical storm Friday after hitting Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane, with fierce winds causing material damage but no injuries along the tourist-rich Yucatan Peninsula.

Now headed for the Gulf of Mexico, Beryl is expected to intensify as it moves toward northeastern Mexico and the US state of Texas by the end of the week, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC).

After tearing through the Caribbean and coastal Venezuela leaving seven people dead, the storm hit southeast Mexico in the early morning hours with winds of up to 175 kilometers (108 miles) per hour.

It flattened trees and lampposts and ripped off roof tiles, according to Mexico's civil protection authority.

Electricity was lost in at least three municipalities in the southeastern Quintana Roo state as Beryl moved deeper inland and weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm.

"On the initial reports, there appears to be no loss of life, and that is what matters most to us," President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in his daily press briefing.

Mexico's emergency authorities later told reporters there were no injuries or deaths, nor damage to critical infrastructure such as roads and the water system.

Electricity had been 70 percent restored and would be fully recovered by Sunday, civil protection chief Laura Velazquez said.

About 2,200 people had sought cover at temporary shelters and more than 25,600 security force members and employees of the CFE electricity agency were deployed to help residents and repair damage.

As a precaution, 348 flights were cancelled at Cancun airport, the largest terminal in the Mexican Caribbean.

By Friday afternoon, state governor Mara Lezama said the airport had resumed service.

- Re-intensification -

The NHC said Beryl weakened from a Category 2 hurricane to Category 1 by the time she hit Yucatan -- milder than earlier in the week when it left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean and parts of Venezuela.

It added Beryl would continue to weaken while crossing the peninsula, but "re-intensification is expected once the center moves back over the Gulf of Mexico."

The NHC said the storm is forecast to regain hurricane status on Sunday.

Ahead of Beryl's arrival Friday, hundreds of tourists were evacuated from hotels along the Mexican coast.

The army, which deployed some 8,000 troops to Tulum, said it has food supplies and 34,000 liters of purified water to distribute to the population.

The army also set up a soup kitchen in Tulum for people who cannot return home due to flooding or blocked roads.

Alvaro Rueda, a 51-year-old bricklayer, told AFP his neighborhood had already started clearing up after the storm's passage.

"Most of the stores are already open... we have purchased food, even if it is canned, there is food," he said.

Beryl is the first hurricane since NHC records began to reach the Category 4 level in June, and the earliest to hit the highest Category 5 in July.

It is extremely rare for such a powerful storm to form this early in the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from early June to late November.

Scientists say climate change likely plays a role in the rapid intensification of storms like Beryl, since there is more energy in a warmer ocean for them to feed on.

North Atlantic waters are currently between two and five degrees Fahrenheit (1-3 degrees Celsius) warmer than normal, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.