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Hurricane Beryl leaves 2 dead in Jamaica and cuts path of destruction as Mexico prepares for impact


Hurricane Beryl churned toward the Cayman Islands and Mexico on Thursday after leaving a trail of destruction in southern Jamaica, killing at least two people on the island nation, bringing down power lines, and leaving hundreds homeless and in shelters.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force told NBC News that one man and one woman had died as a result of the storm in the last 24 hours. The man, age 26, was swept away by floodwaters in the capital, Kingston, on Wednesday evening.

“He was playing football with friends at the mini stadium when the ball went outside, and he attempted to retrieve it,” police said. A search is underway for another man who was swept away by floodwaters, they added.

That brings the total dead this week as a result of Beryl in the Caribbean to nine.

The storm has now diminished to a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 115 mph — but widespread damage is still expected in the Caymans, where a hurricane warning is in place Thursday as the storm’s eye moves toward the south of the islands.

Strong winds, storm surges, damaging waves, between 4 and 6 inches of rain and floods are all expected in the Caymans and in parts of Mexico and Belize from Thursday night.

Some communities on Mexico’s Caribbean coast were evacuated, and sea turtle eggs were moved away from beaches before a storm surge could destroy them. A hurricane watch was issued for the country’s Yucatan Peninsula, along the coast from Cancun to Costa Maya.

Mexican naval officers told people in tourist areas, in Spanish and in English, to get ready for the storm’s arrival.

Jamaica’s hurricane warning has been lifted, but a flash flood warning was put in place until 5 a.m. ET, as heavy rainfall continued to fall after the storm had passed.

“It’s terrible. Everything’s gone. I’m in my house and scared,” Amoy Wellington, a 51-year-old cashier who lives in Top Hill, a rural farming community in southern St. Elizabeth parish, told Reuters. “It’s a disaster.”

Honeymooners Casey and Warner Haley, of Knoxville, Tennessee, told NBC News that after their wedding on Saturday they were told to hunker down at their resort in Montego Bay.

“Yesterday morning it was perfect weather. We went snorkeling and we went kayaking, and by the time we got back, the forecast had changed,” Casey, 23, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The couple said they immediately contacted their travel agent but were told no flights were available. At the airport, they were told the same.

Workers save pieces of a tin fence that was blown apart as Hurricane Beryl passed through Kingston, Jamaica, on Wednesday. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

“It was quite literally doomsday-type level scenery,” Casey said. “We went to all the flight counters, just saying, ‘Hey can you get us anywhere at all, particularly in the U.S., but literally just anywhere?’ And they all said, ‘No, we’re all booked.’”

Beryl is expected to reach Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula on Friday as a Category 2 storm, before moving into the southern Gulf of Mexico early Saturday. It’s unclear what effect it may have on the Gulf Coast of Texas, where people in coastal areas were urged to be “weather aware” over the holiday weekend.

The National Hurricane Center warned Thursday that the storm could restrengthen over the warm waters of the Gulf and reach the U.S. at or near hurricane strength.

“Almost all of the model guidance show the system near hurricane strength as Beryl approaches the western Gulf Coast, and so does the official forecast,” the center said early Thursday.

The center added that regardless of the hurricane’s track, rip currents could cause “life-threatening beach conditions” from late Friday and through the weekend across the Gulf coast.

The devastation across some of the Caribbean’s smaller islands has been vast. Michelle Forbes, director of the National Emergency Management Organization in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said about 95% of homes on the islands of Mayreau and Union Island were either damaged or destroyed.

Ralph Gonsalves, St. Vincent’s prime minister, said in a radio interview Wednesday that it would take a “herculean effort” to rebuild Union Island.

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