PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico (AP) — Hurricane Beryl ripped roofs off Jamaica, tore fishing boats in Barbados and damaged or destroyed 95% of homes on two islands in St. Vincent and the Grenadines before moving toward the Cayman Islands and hitting Mexico’s Caribbean coast, killing at least seven people.

What was the first storm to develop into a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic weakened slightly but remained a major hurricane. The eye of the hurricane was expected to pass just south of the Cayman Islands tonight.

On Mexico’s popular Caribbean coast, shelters were set up, some small, remote coastal communities were evacuated and even sea turtle eggs were removed from beaches threatened by the storm surge. But in popular nightlife spots like Playa del Carmen and Tulum, tourists stayed in town for an extra night.

The Mexican Navy patrolled areas like Tulum, warning tourists in Spanish and English to prepare for the storm’s arrival.

Late Wednesday night, the storm’s center was about 560 miles (905 kilometers) east-southeast of Tulum, Mexico. Maximum sustained winds were 130 mph (215 km/h) and the storm was moving west-northwest at 21 mph (32 km/h). Beryl was expected to make landfall in the early hours of Friday in a sparsely populated area of ​​lagoons and mangroves south of Tulum, likely as a Category 2 storm. The storm was then expected to cross the Yucatan Peninsula and strengthen again over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before striking a second time along Mexico’s northeastern coast near the Texas border.

The storm had already demonstrated its destructive potential across much of the southeastern Caribbean.

Beryl’s eyewall hit Jamaica’s southern coast Wednesday afternoon, knocking out power and blowing roofs off homes. Prime Minister Andrew Holness said Jamaica had not yet “seen the worst of what could happen.”

“We can do what we can do, what is humanly possible, and the rest we leave in the hands of God,” Holness said.

According to the government information service, several roads in settlements in Jamaica’s interior were affected by fallen trees and electricity poles, while some communities in the north were without electricity.

Perhaps the worst happened earlier in Beryl’s orbit, when the storm hit two small islands in the Lesser Antilles.

Michelle Forbes, director of the National Emergency Management Organization for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said about 95% of homes in Mayreau and Union Island were damaged by Hurricane Beryl.

Three people were killed in Grenada and Carriacou and another in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, officials said. Three other deaths were reported in northern Venezuela, where four people were missing, officials said.

According to Environment Minister Kerryne James, one person died in Grenada after a tree fell on a house.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has pledged to rebuild the archipelago.

The last major hurricane to hit the southeastern Caribbean was Hurricane Ivan 20 years ago, which killed dozens of people in Grenada.

On Wednesday afternoon in Cancun, Donna McNaughton, a 43-year-old cardiac physiologist from Scotland, had no trouble dealing with the approaching storm.

Her flight home wasn’t until Monday, so she decided to take her hotel’s advice and wait it out.

“We’re not so afraid of it. It will pass,” she said. “And we’re used to wind and rain in Scotland anyway.”


Associated Press journalists John Myers Jr. and Renloy Trail in Kingston, Jamaica, Mark Stevenson and María Verza in Mexico City, Coral Murphy Marcos in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Lucanus Ollivierre in Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines contributed to this report.

Martín Silva and Fernando Llano, The Associated Press