Hurricane Beryl: Monstrous' storm heads towards Jamaica after six killed

Hurricane Beryl is hurtling towards Jamaica as a powerful category four storm, after killing at least six people in the southeast Caribbean.

The destructive weather pattern was forecast to start losing intensity on Tuesday and was downgraded from a category five hurricane - the most powerful type.

But it will still be near major hurricane strength when it passes near or over Jamaica early on Wednesday, near the Cayman Islands on Thursday, and into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Friday, according to the National Hurricane Centre.

It is expected to bring life-threatening winds and storm surge to Jamaica, the centre said. Officials have warned residents in flood-prone areas to prepare for evacuation.

Alerts have been put in place in Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Haiti's entire southern coast, while the entire southern coast of Hispaniola, an island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is under a tropical storm warning.

So far, six people are thought to have died as a result of the hurricane.

Three people were reported killed in Grenada and Carriacou and another in St Vincent and the Grenadines, officials said. Two others were reported to have died in northern Venezuela, where five people are missing, officials said.

It comes after the "monstrous" weather system slammed into islands including Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Barbados on Monday.

Widespread damage to homes and businesses has been reported, along with power cuts and other disruption.

The hurricane was upgraded to a category five storm on Tuesday before being downgraded again and is currently sweeping west across the Caribbean Sea.

Winds of up to 165mph were reported in the region just south of the Dominican Republic on Tuesday.

The prime minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness said in an address to the nation: "I am encouraging all Jamaicans to take the hurricane as a serious threat. It is, however, not a time to panic."

It is the earliest time of the year a category four or five hurricane has ever formed in the Atlantic, fuelled by unusually warm waters, officials said.

Grenada's Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell described the situation on the island of Carriacou, near Grenada, as "grim" and said emergency teams were on their way.

He told a news conference on Tuesday: "There is no power, and there is almost complete destruction of homes and buildings on the island.

"The roads are not passable, and in many instances, they are cut off because of the large quantity of debris strewn all over the streets."

He added: "The possibility that there may be more fatalities remains a grim reality, as movement is still highly restricted."

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A spokesperson for the Grenada Tourism Authority said its main island had "thankfully largely escaped" the effects of the hurricane and said its international airport had reopened on Tuesday.

They added: "However, we're deeply saddened by the widespread damage and news of fatalities on our sister islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

"We are working closely with the emergency services to ensure support and relief efforts are in place as soon as possible, as well as the restoration of vital services."

The prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, said around 90% of homes on Union Island had been destroyed, and that "similar levels of devastation" had likely occurred on the islands of Mayreau and Canouan.

He vowed to rebuild the archipelago in a statement on Tuesday.

Hurricane Beryl has already broken several records, including when it formed the farthest east for a storm of its kind in the tropical Atlantic in June.

Scientists have said climate change has made more intense, and earlier, storms more likely.