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A Category 5 storm, Hurricane Beryl has claimed at least six lives as it barrels through the Caribbean Sea. Initial reports indicate severe damage to homes, infrastructure and power and communications.

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UN Spokesperson Stephané Dujarric told journalists at the regular press briefing in New York that seven agencies based in Grenada and nine in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines “will be augmented by additional UN emergency teams in the coming days.”

“Logistics are going to be a challenge, given the islands’ dispersal, damaged infrastructure and limited accessibility,” he said.

Solidarity crucial

Mr. Dujarric added that the Secretary-General is “very much appealing for strong international solidarity” with Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the other islands that have been hit by the hurricane.

“These small island states that the Secretary-General has often visited are again bearing the brunt of natural disasters. And it is critical that we see international solidarity,” he added.

Hurricane Beryl is only just the start of what is forecast to be extremely intense 2024 hurricane season, amid worsening impacts of climate change.

Worries for Haiti

The UN Spokesperson also voiced concern for Haiti, which was already in a dire situation before the hurricane.

“The security situation is not making it any better. We are prepositioning, we are ready to help as soon as the storm hits and before,” he said.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), aid agencies there are in close contact with Haitian authorities, who have amplified early warning messages.

“UN agencies, of course, stand ready to assist and have already taken anticipatory measures,” Mr. Dujarric said.

A home destroyed in a tornado that struck Bassin Bleu, northern Haiti.
© UNICEF/Maxime Le Lijour
A home destroyed in a tornado that struck Bassin Bleu, northern Haiti.

‘Explosive’ intensification

Also on Tuesday, the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) raised alarm over the rate at which Hurricane Beryl intensified from a tropical depression to a Category 3 in 42 hours, and Category 4 in 48 hours.

“This is unprecedented for June but is in line with the recent trend towards very rapid intensification,” the agency said, recalling that such was the case with Hurricane Otis which grew to a Category 5 hurricane overnight and hit the Mexican resort of Acapulco last October.

At least 52 people were reported to have been killed by Hurricane Otis and a further 32 remain missing.

WMO noted “record high” sea surface temperatures, warning that the stage is set for an “especially active and dangerous” hurricane season for the entire basin – Atlantic, Caribbean and Central America.  

“It takes just one landfalling hurricane to set back years of socio-economic development. For example Hurricane Maria in 2017 cost Dominica 800 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” said Ko Barrett, WMO Deputy Secretary-General.