The Telegraph: LONDON, England – Hurricane Beryl powered towards Mexico late Wednesday, after battering Jamaica’s southern coast with devastating winds and sea surge.

The Category 5 storm left a trail of destruction in its path across the Caribbean, killing at least seven people as it strengthened rapidly.

Beryl pulled away from Jamaica late Wednesday and was expected to pass just south of the Cayman Islands overnight, before moving onward to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

The storm is the first since NHC records began to reach the Category 4 level in June and the earliest to reach Category 5 in July.

Mexican officials are scrambling to prepare, with Beryl expected to bring damaging winds, a dangerous storm surge and heavy rainfall over the Yucatan Peninsula and Belize.

“We will have intense rains and wind gusts” from Thursday, Civil Protection national coordinator Laura Velazquez said, announcing the deployment of hundreds of military personnel, marines and electricity workers in anticipation of damage.

The government has prepared 112 shelters with a capacity for around 20,000 people and suspended school in the state of Quintana Roo, where Beryl will likely hit.

A tree lies in the road after Beryl passed through Kingston, Jamaica - Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A tree lies in the road after Beryl passed through Kingston, Jamaica – Joe Raedle/Getty Images© Provided by The Telegraph

In Jamaica, “life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides from heavy rainfall” were still expected overnight, the NHC said.

More than 400,000 people were without power, according to the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, citing a public service company.

Andrew Holness, Jamaica’s prime minister, declared a curfew from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm across the island of 2.8 million and urged Jamaicans to comply with evacuation orders.

Desmon Brown, manager of the National Stadium in Kingston, said his staff had scrambled to be ready.

“We’ve taped up our windows, covered our equipment – including computers, printers and that sort of thing. Apart from that, it’s mainly concrete so there’s not much we can do,” Brown told the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

As of Wednesday night, Beryl was packing maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 kph), said the NHC.

At least three people were killed in Grenada, where the storm made landfall Monday, as well as one in St Vincent and the Grenadines and three in Venezuela.

Scattered debris clutters the waterfront on the island of Carriacou, Grenada - Arthur Daniel

Scattered debris clutters the waterfront on the island of Carriacou, Grenada – Arthur Daniel© Provided by The Telegraph

Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, said that it would take a “herculean effort” to rebuild after the substantial destruction and that “90-odd per cent of the houses were blown away” on Union Island.

“Most of the country doesn’t have electricity, and more than half without water at the moment,” he said.

Dickon Mitchell, Grenada’s prime minister, said the island of Carriacou, which was struck by the eye of the storm, has been all but cut off, with houses, telecommunications and fuel facilities there flattened.

The 13.5-square mile (35-square km) island is home to around 9,000 people. At least two people died, Mitchell said, with a third killed in Grenada when a tree fell on a house.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, one person on the island of Bequia was reported dead from the storm, while a man died in Venezuela’s northeastern coastal state of Sucre when he was swept away by a flooded river, officials there said.

A local environment agency protects sea turtles' nests ahead the arrival of Beryl in Cancun, Mexico - Paola Chiomante

A local environment agency protects sea turtles’ nests ahead the arrival of Beryl in Cancun, Mexico – Paola Chiomante© Provided by The Telegraph

It is extremely rare for such a powerful storm to form this early in the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from early June to late November.

Warm ocean temperatures are key for hurricanes, and North Atlantic waters are currently between two and five degrees Fahrenheit (1-3 degrees Celsius) warmer than normal, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

UN climate chief Simon Stiell, who has family on the island of Carriacou, said climate change was “pushing disasters to record-breaking new levels of destruction.”

“Disasters on a scale that used to be the stuff of science fiction are becoming meteorological facts, and the climate crisis is the chief culprit,” he said Monday, reporting that his parents’ property was damaged.

Top Feature Photo: A man in Jamaica hurried home through the wind and the rain before Hurricane Beryl battered the island – Joe Raedle/Getty Images© Provided by The Telegraph