As the barrel moves forward, the ravaged islands anticipate destruction.

Hurricane Barrel was moving toward Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula early Friday at Category 2 strength after slamming into the eastern Caribbean, where it flattened islands, inundated communities and killed at least eight people. .

The storm, which this week became the oldest Category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic, weakened slightly early Friday, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It was expected to make landfall in Mexico later Friday morning.

With the center forecasting “dangerous” storm surge and hurricane-force winds, Mexican officials were taking no chances. The government said Thursday it had deployed more than 13,000 workers and members of the armed forces, along with rescue dogs, and set up mobile kitchens and water treatment plants in the southern Caribbean-facing state of Quintana Roo. First to feel the effects of the storm.

As the hurricane moved away from Jamaica, residents came out of shelters to take in a landscape of devastated farmland, homes that sustained damage and roads littered with fallen utility poles and vegetation. were covered.

Steve Taylor, a resident of the coastal town of Mitchelltown, told a local television station that “the whole place is black.”

St. Elizabeth, a farming area known as the country's breadbasket, was particularly hard hit. “Southwest St. Elizabeth is facing total devastation,” said Floyd Green, Jamaica's agriculture minister.

Still, as brutal as Hurricane Barrel was, Jamaican officials surveying the devastation said it could have been worse.

“The damage was not what we expected, and so we're very grateful for that,” Prime Minister Andrew Hollins told CNN on Thursday. “I think Jamaica was spared the worst.”

So far, officials said, the storm appears to have claimed few lives in the Caribbean after it first made landfall in Grenada on Monday.

Forecasters were predicting that Mexico would be hit by hurricanes not just once, but twice. It was on track to cross the Yucatán Peninsula on Friday, and then, after passing through the Gulf of Mexico, hit the coast of the northern state of Tamaulipas.

Some evacuations were underway in Tulum and Felipe Carrillo-Puerto, areas where officials feared the force of the storm would hit.

In Cancún, a popular vacation spot, yachts were clustered in an inland waterway for protection.

Anders Asson and his family arrived at Mexico's Cancun International Airport on Thursday after a nearly 24-hour journey from Norway, not knowing that a hurricane was also due to arrive within hours.

“At the hotel, they didn't give us any information about what was going to happen or what we had to do,” said Mr. Asan, 42, a businessman who lives in Cancun and Tulum with his wife and three children. Planned to travel. The family has already spent $20,000 on their trip, he said.

Most of the tourists who arrived at the airport on Thursday said they were not informed about the storm in advance and that neither travel agencies nor hotels informed them about safety measures.

In the Gulf of Mexico, Shell Oil said it was evacuating non-essential workers from a floating oil platform. The platform, called Perdido, sits in about 8,000 feet of water about 200 miles south of Galveston, Texas. The company said the hurricane had no other impact on our production.

The storm emerged as the first Category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic Ocean, according to Colorado State University meteorologist Philip Klotzbach. He said the previous record was set by Hurricane Emily on July 17, 2005.

Meteorologists say the rapid growth of hurricane barrels was a direct result of higher average sea surface temperatures, and indicates that hurricane season may be particularly difficult.

Residents of the Cayman Islands breathed a massive sigh of relief after Hurricane Barrel weakened to Category 3 strength Thursday morning without making landfall. No significant damage, injuries or fatalities were reported. However, officials said they were still assessing the full impact of the storm.

In Jamaica, electricity and water supplies were slowly being restored to the worst-hit areas: the eastern and southern parishes of Kingston, the capital; Portland, and other localities. Representatives of the main suppliers told local news media that more than 60 percent of customers were without water and electricity as of Thursday morning. Mobile phone service was not yet available in large parts of the country.

Jamaica's Sangster International Airport, in the tourist area of ​​Montego Bay, was expected to reopen later Thursday, the transport minister said in a statement. The main airport, Norman Manley, remained closed for repairs but was expected to reopen on Friday.

The government said public sector workers could return to work, while some businesses called in their employees. The Central Bank of Jamaica advised it would remain closed until Friday. Schools are closed for the summer.

Rebuilding appears to be a much more difficult task on islands that were hit even harder by the storm, especially in Grenada. Satellite images showed flattened houses and buildings without roofs, with the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique suffering damage. About 98 percent of the buildings there have been destroyed, officials said.

In Argyle, a popular tourist town with dozens of holiday rentals in Carriacou, before-and-after photos showed the structure a pile of rubble. The island's docks, usually full of boats, were empty. And the damage continued inland, along the northeastern coastline of Carriacou, satellite images showed.

The Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association said tourism is one of the island's main sources of income, and the airport and some hotels were reopening as clean-up operations began.

Lynsey Chutel, Daphne Ewing Cho, Johnny Diaz And Ricardo Hernandez Ruiz Cooperation reporting.

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