Mexico issues ‘red alert’ as Category 3 Hurricane Beryl heads for coast

By Jose Cortes and Paola Chiomante

TULUM/CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) – Mexico’s top tourist destinations were on red alert as Hurricane Beryl strengthened to a Category 3 storm on Thursday afternoon after leaving a deadly trail of destruction across several Caribbean islands.

Beryl was packing winds of up to 115 mph (185 kph) as it made landfall on the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula early Friday, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC), which warned of dangerous storm surge and destructive waves. .

Mexico’s civil defense agency issued a “red alert” and asked people to stay in their homes or at storm shelters as it approached popular coastal tourist spots such as Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Tulum and Puerto Morelos.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged people in the path of the storm to take shelter after the meteorological service forecast heavy and torrential rain that could trigger landslides and flooding.

“Without hesitating. Material things can be recovered. The most important thing is life,” wrote the president on social media.

The storm passed the Cayman Islands earlier Thursday after lashing Jamaica with winds that tore apart buildings and uprooted trees.

Authorities say at least 11 people have died so far from the storm across Jamaica, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and northern Venezuela. The toll could increase as communications are restored and more reports come in from islands devastated by floods and powerful winds.

The entire state of Quintana Roo, home to Mexico’s top tourist destination, Cancun, was preparing for the storm, Governor Mara Lezama said in a video posted on X.

“Let’s take all preventive and precautionary measures because the winds and the rain will be felt throughout the state. At this time no one should be out of town,” said Lezama.

At Cancun’s international airport, at least 100 flights were canceled on Thursday as tourists scrambled to catch the last ones out.

Beach surfers in Cancun were spotted on Thursday evening as the winds picked up. In nearby Playa del Carmen, police blocked beach entrances with yellow caution tape to discourage visitors ahead of Beryl’s arrival.

The unusually fierce, early-season hurricane was about 90 miles (145 km) east-southeast of the Mexican beach resort of Tulum, according to the NHC.

Earlier on Thursday, officials in the Cayman Islands issued the all-clear after the storm passed the worst.

Beryl weakened on Thursday after circling the southern coast of Jamaica late Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

“We are happy to be alive, happy that the damage was not more extensive,” said Joseph Patterson, a beekeeper in the town of Bogue in southwestern Jamaica. He described downed power lines, roads blocked with debris and “enormous damage” to farms.

There were two deaths in Jamaica related to the storm, Prime Minister Andrew Holness he said in an interview on CBC on Thursday.

About 70% of the National Water Commission’s 400,000 customers were without water, a company representative said.

Still, most Jamaicans were “giving thanks,” Holness said, having “escaped the worst”.

Beryl was forecast to dump 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) of rain on Mexico’s Yucatan through Friday, with up to 10 inches in some places, the NHC said.

The hurricane center expects the storm to weaken quickly as it crosses the peninsula early Friday, but is seen strengthening again as Beryl moves over the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm is expected to move toward northeastern Mexico and southern Texas late into the weekend, the NHC said.


On Thursday, about 3,000 tourists from the escape island of Isla Mujeres were evacuated back to the mainland near Cancun, the island’s tourism director Jose Magana said.

Fisherman Jose Martin was one of several people who docked his boat in Cancun before Beryl came out.

“It really affects us because, first, we can’t work, and second, we have to get shelter, so it’s not good,” Martin said.

Schools in the state of Quintana Roo were closed on Thursday and Friday. Mexico’s defense ministry opened about 120 storm shelters in the area.

Residents in Tulum lined up at gas stations to fill their tanks and extra containers, while hotels and tourist complexes removed loose furniture and equipment.

Beryl is the first hurricane of the 2024 Atlantic season and at peak was the earliest Category 5 storm on record.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted an “unusual” storm season this year. Scientists say human-caused climate change is driving extreme weather.

Mexico’s major oil platforms, most of which are clustered around the shallow waters of the southern Gulf of Mexico, are not expected to be shut down or otherwise affected.

Oil projects offshore to the north, in US territorial waters, could be hit, depending on the hurricane’s expected trajectory.

(Reporting by Zahra Burton in Kingston, José de Jesús Cortes and Raquel Cunha in Tulum, and Paola Chiomante in Cancun; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Boyle in Mexico City, Robertson Henry in St. Vincent and Natalia Siniawski in Gdansk; Writing by Cassandra Garrison and David Alire Garcia; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Kim Coghill and Stephen Coates)

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