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Quebec woman in the eye of the storm as Hurricane Beryl hits Jamaica

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In Jamaica, people were shopping for essentials and fishermen were bringing boats back to shore as they braced for the worst ahead of Hurricane Beryl.

Among them was Quebecer Marie Imbault, who was watching and waiting as the winds were starting to pick up.

Originally from Repentigny, Que., she's been living in Jamaica for the past 13 years working as a tour guide for French-speaking travellers. She operates a bed-and-breakfast and offers souvenir-making workshops.

"So many people are worried that I want to make sure that we update everybody on how it's going," she said in an interview Wednesday morning.

Overnight and in the early morning hours, there were clear signs this would not be an ordinary day.

"I live in a big yard. At night there's crickets, in the morning there's birds chirping and this morning when I woke up it was total silence," she said.

Fishermen push a boat damaged by Hurricane Beryl at the Bridgetown fisheries, Barbados, Tuesday, July 2, 2024. (Ricardo Mazalan / The Associated Press)

There was nothing to do but wait.

"Well, right now, we are all locked in our home. We were not allowed since 6 a.m. this morning to leave our yard” Ibault said, before referencing the Jamaican Patois expression ‘Tan ah yuh yard, which means "Stay home."

“I'm overwhelmed with just how much people are just reaching out to us to make sure we're OK, from abroad," she added.

Meanwhile, Jamaica's prime minister made an urgent plea.

"An evacuation order on the direction of authorized officers is also in effect for flood-prone and landslide-prone areas, areas at or below sea level, and areas at or close to gullies or waterways," said Prime Minister Andrew Holness in a video posted on X. "We urge all Jamaicans to comply with notices to evacuate if and when they are issue."

Despite the danger, some are choosing to stay, including residents of Port Royal in the capital of Kingston.

"The residents there have generally refused to leave. One local official told us that about 1,200 residents live there and about 20 per cent have left. They have provided buses to leave to go to a major shelter in Kingston and they have sent out mostly children," Jovan Johnson, senior staff reporter at The Jamaica Gleaner, told CTV News.

Some Quebec travellers were able to get out of the country on emergency Air Transat flights that landed at Trudeau airport overnight. But others couldn't leave and, for now, Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay is closed.

"The visitors that are in Jamaica who have not been able to leave are generally at their hotel and these hotels are built to withstand hurricanes. It's part of the building code," said George W. Grant, the Honorary Consul for Jamaica in Montreal.

"So I've reassured them of the fact that if their relatives are at the hotel, that's the safest place they could be at the moment."

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