Hurricane Beryl makes landfall in Mexican coast

CANCUN/TULUM, Mexico (Reuters) -Hurricane Beryl, a Category 2 storm, made landfall in Mexico’s top tourist destinations early on Friday, triggering a red alert in the region following its deadly trail of destruction across several Caribbean islands.

The storm’s core shifted over the Yucatan, with winds slowing to approximately 100 mph (160 kph) as it reached the northeastern region of Tulum.

While the storm’s center moving through Tulum resulted in slower winds and some downed branches, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) continues to anticipate dangerous winds, storm surges, and destructive waves in the area of landfall.

A hurricane warning has been issued for the coast from Puerto Costa Maya to Cancun, including Cozumel.

Hurricane Beryl, the first of the 2024 Atlantic season, was at one point a Category 5 storm, making it the earliest Category 5 storm on record. This extraordinary storm season is believed by scientists to be fueled by climate change.

Mexico’s civil protection agency has issued a red alert, signaling a maximum hazard threat. The agency has advised residents to remain in their homes or seek refuge in storm shelters.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador echoed this advice, urging those in the storm’s path to seek shelter. He emphasized the importance of prioritising life over material possessions in a social media post.

In Quintana Roo, home to Cancun, Governor Mara Lezama posted a video of Tulum’s downtown showing strong winds and rain already affecting the region. He urged residents to take all necessary precautions as the storm’s impact is expected to be felt across the state.

Schools in Quintana Roo have been closed and the Mexico’s defense ministry has opened around 120 storm shelters in the area.

Before reaching Mexico, Hurricane Beryl wreaked havoc in the Caribbean. It swept through Jamaica, Grenada, St. Vincent, the Grenadines, and northern Venezuela, claiming at least 11 lives, bringing down buildings and uprooting trees.

The death toll may rise as more information becomes available.

Beryl is expected to weaken rapidly as it crosses the Yucatan Peninsula, but is forecast to regain strength when it moves over the Gulf of Mexico. The NHC predicts that the storm will move towards northeastern Mexico and southern Texas towards the end of the weekend.

Hurricane Beryl forced the evacuation of around 3,000 tourists from Isla Mujeres, an island near Cancun, the island’s tourism director Jose Magana said. Many residents, including fishermen, have sought shelter in anticipation of the storm’s impact.

About 100 flights were canceled at Cancun International Airport on Thursday, causing many tourists to rush to catch the last outgoing flights.

Mexico’s major oil platforms, primarily located in the southern Gulf of Mexico, are not expected to be impacted or shut down, but oil projects in U.S. waters to the north may be affected if the hurricane continues on its expected path.

Research by the ClimaMeter consortium determined that climate change, caused by human activities, significantly intensified Hurricane Beryl. According to the study, the storm’s severity, along with its associated rainfall and wind speed, saw an increase of 10-30% as a direct result of climate change.

(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, Natalia Siniawski in Gdansk and Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru; Writing by Cassandra Garrison, David Alire Garcia and Natalia Siniawski; Editing by Barbara Lewis and Tomasz Janowski)

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