Hurricane Beryl, which arrived particularly early, is preparing to hit Jamaica and then the Cayman Islands on Wednesday after having killed at least seven people and caused considerable destruction in the south-east of the Caribbean, the American Hurricane Center (NHC) has warned.

Although relegated to category 4 on Tuesday afternoon, this first hurricane of the season was, on Monday evening and Tuesday morning, classified as category 5, the highest with winds exceeding 252 km/h and “potentially catastrophic” consequences.

Beryl was the earliest Category 5 hurricane ever recorded by the U.S. weather service.

Two more deaths related to the hurricane were reported in Venezuela, bringing the death toll in the country to three. At least three more people were killed in Grenada, which Beryl made landfall on Monday, as well as one in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Damaging winds…, life-threatening rising sea levels and destructive waves are expected in parts of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands during the day and evening on Wednesday,” the NHC wrote in its 2100 GMT bulletin on Tuesday, noting that the hurricane is packing winds of 250 km/h.

“The good news is that Beryl has started to weaken a little bit,” said NHC Director Michael Brennan, calling the hurricane “extremely dangerous.”

Beryl could hit Jamaica as a Category 3 or 4 storm, which could cause “considerable wind damage, including to homes, roofs, trees and power lines,” he added.

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness urged “all Jamaicans to stock up on food, batteries, candles and water” and to “safely store” their “essential documents” in a post on the social network X on Tuesday.

In addition to Jamaica, hurricane warnings have also been issued for the Cayman Islands, which Beryl is expected to pass near or over Wednesday night, according to the NHC.

In the Dominican Republic, massive waves crashed onto the shore of the capital Santo Domingo, AFP photographers reported.

Beryl will also hit southern Haiti and reach, weakened, the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, on Thursday evening.

– Climate crisis –
“It is clear that the climate crisis is pushing disasters to new record levels of destruction,” said UN Climate Change chief Simon Stiell. One of the two victims recorded on Carriacou, an island in Grenada, which was devastated by the hurricane's eye on Monday, was a member of his family.

“The climate crisis is getting worse, and faster than expected,” requiring “much more ambitious climate action from governments and businesses” in response, he added in a statement to AFP.

In Barbados, homes and businesses were flooded and fishing boats damaged in Bridgetown.

On the French island of Martinique, streets were flooded and some 10,000 customers were left without power, according to supplier EDF.

– North Atlantic overheating –
Beryl is the first hurricane of the season in the Atlantic. A weather event of this scale is extremely rare so early in the hurricane season, which runs from early June to late November in the United States.

The American meteorological observatory (NOAA) had predicted at the end of May an extraordinary season and the possibility of four to seven hurricanes of category 3 or more.

These forecasts are linked in particular to the expected development of the La Nina weather phenomenon, as well as to the very high temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean, according to NOAA. Temperatures in the North Atlantic have been evolving continuously for more than a year at record levels of heat, well above the annals.

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