Hurricane Dean battered Jamaica into a state of emergency Monday, killing nine people, downing power lines, ripping off roofs and blocking roads on the Caribbean island with debris and felled trees.
Dean remained an "extremely dangerous category four hurricane," the U.S. National Hurricane Center pointed out, adding that the storm had the potential of becoming a deadly category five hurricane in the northwestern Caribbean Sea on Monday.
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller declared a month-long state of emergency and called a cabinet meeting to discuss the possibility of delaying the Aug. 27 general elections.
Miller called on all off-duty police officers, firefighters and prison warders to report for work, while electricity was turned off on the national grid as a safety measure, leaving 135,000 people without power.
The category four hurricane, packing winds of 150 miles (240 kilometers) an hour which have so far killed nine people across the Caribbean basin, was whipping up giant surf and dumping inches of rain on Jamaica as it headed for Belize and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.
Jamaica's airports were shut since Saturday, and more than 4,500 people have packed into hundreds of shelters opened up by the government around the island amid bitter memories of Hurricane Ivan which killed 14 people in 2004.
Mexico was, meanwhile, evacuating some 90,000 tourists from Cancun and other islands of the "Mayan Riviera," as well as some 13,000 workers on more than 140 of its oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, with Dean set to slam into the Yucatan peninsula early in the week.
In Cuba, just to the north of Jamaica, authorities had evacuated some 150,000 people from six eastern provinces to save them from possible flooding.
Category 5 hurricanes are rare but in 2005 there were four, including Gonu – the strongest tropical cyclone in the Arabian Sea – which killed 49 people in Oman and 23 others in Iran in June.