BBC 2024-07-04 07:05:18


Powerful Hurricane Beryl roars towards Jamaica

By Vanessa BuschschlüterBBC News

Jamaica is bracing for a powerful hurricane as it roars towards the Caribbean island.

Beryl – a category four storm with winds near 140mph (220km/h) – is expected to pass near or over the southern coast in the next few hours, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warns.

It predicts “life-threatening winds and storm surge” in Jamaica as well as the Cayman Islands later.

At least seven people have been killed so far as the storm sweeps through the Caribbean.

A hurricane warning is in effect in Jamaica, where the authorities have imposed a curfew from 06:00 to 18:00 local time (11:00-23:00 GMT).

Prime Minister Andrew Holness urged people to “take this hurricane seriously”.

“If you live in a low-lying area, an area historically prone to flooding and landslide, or if you live on the banks of a river or a gully, I implore you to evacuate to a shelter or to safer ground,” he said.

Watch: Union Island resident explains impact of Hurricane Beryl

Three people died in Grenada, where it first made landfall on Monday, one in St Vincent and the Grenadines, and another three in northern Venezuela, which was hit by strong winds and flooding.

About 90% of homes were destroyed or severely damaged on Union Island, which is part of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

  • ‘Almost whole island homeless’ in Hurricane Beryl’s wake

Parts of Jamaica have experienced disruption to power and electricity supplies, with the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) saying it was forced to pause restoration of power lines in some locations for the safety of their workers.

In a news briefing, the NHC’s director, Dr Michael Brennan, said Jamaica would experience “devastating hurricane force winds”.

Rainfall in some parts of the country could hit 12in (30cm), potentially leading to flooding and mudslides, the director explained, while life-threatening storm surges as high as 9ft (2.7m) above tide level are also expected.

“Everybody in Jamaica needs to be in their safe place and be prepared to stay there for at least the next 12 hours,” Dr Brennan warned.

The BBC’s Nick Davis said Jamaicans had been rushing to supermarkets on Tuesday to get “as much as they could as quickly as they could”.

Jamaica’s Information Minister Dana Morris Dixon said the island had 900 shelters to house people who needed to leave their homes.

In Venezuela, Hurricane Beryl brought heavy rains which caused a river to overflow in the northern state of Sucre. Three people died and several are still missing.

A government delegation was hit by a falling tree while inspecting damage.

President Nicolás Maduro said Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez was among those injured. He said she was “very bruised but conscious”.

In Mexico, where Hurricane Beryl is expected in the coming days, residents in Cancún have rushed to supermarkets to stock up on supplies. Some have encountered empty shelves.

The NHC said that Hurricane Beryl was the earliest category five storm recorded in the Atlantic and had formed much earlier in the hurricane season than usual.

Meteorologists have also remarked on how quickly Beryl developed.

The storm strengthened from a tropical depression into a major hurricane in 42 hours, hurricane expert Sam Lillo told the Associated Press news agency.

Predicted path of Hurricane Beryl

In Texas, officials warned residents to prepare for the possibility of Beryl’s arrival this weekend.

On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott told resident’s near the state’s Atlantic coast to “keep an eye on the gulf” and “have an emergency plan to take care of yourself and your loved ones”.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has warned that the North Atlantic could get as many as seven major hurricanes this year – up from an average of three in a season.

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Singapore to cane Japanese hairdresser for rape

By Joel GuintoBBC News

A Singapore court has sentenced a Japanese man to jail and caning for the “brutal and cruel” rape of a university student in 2019.

The 38-year-old hairdresser, Ikko Kita, is set to be the first Japanese national to be caned in the city state, the Japanese embassy in Singapore told BBC News.

He will be caned 20 times and also jailed for 17 and a half years.

Caning is a controversial but widely used form of corporal punishment in Singapore, and is compulsory for offences like vandalism, robbery and drug trafficking.

According to court documents, Kita met the woman at Clarke Quay, a popular nightlife district, in December 2019.

The woman, who was then 20, had not known Kita before. She was intoxicated when he took her to his flat and raped her.

He also filmed the act on his mobile phone and later sent it to a friend.

The victim managed to leave the apartment afterwards and reported the rape to police later that day.

Kita was arrested on the same day and has been in police custody since.

Police found two videos of the rape on his mobile phone.

Justice Aedit Abdullah called the assault “brutal and cruel”, adding that the victim was “vulnerable, clearly drunk, and incapable of looking after herself”.

The judge also dismissed the defence’s argument that the victim had allegedly given an initial indication of consent to sex.

The sentencing has been widely reported in Japan and has also been trending on social media.

Some users have expressed shock at the use of caning in modern Singapore, though there have also been some celebrating the sentence.

One said that “in Japan, when it comes to sexual assault, society and the police make victims feel guilty, and the punishment is far too lenient”.

Singapore says caning acts as a deterrent to violent crime, though some rights groups say there is no clear evidence of this.

Caning in Singapore involves being struck with a wooden stick on the back of the thigh, which can leave permanent scars.

According to rights group the Transformative Justice Collective, the cane measures about 1.5m (4.9ft) and not more than 1.27cm in diameter.

The practice drew international attention in 1994 when 19-year-old US citizen Michael Fay was given six strokes of the cane for vandalism.

Despite an appeal from US President Bill Clinton, Singapore authorities went ahead with the caning but gave Fay a reduced number of strokes.

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