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Last Updated: Monday, 20 August 2007, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
UK tourists take refuge from Dean
The waterfront in Kingston, Jamaica
Forecasters warned the storm could reach the highest category, five
British tourists in Jamaica have been taking shelter from Hurricane Dean as it battered the island, ripping up trees and causing widespread damage.

Airports have been closed, some hotels evacuated and curfews imposed as the storm, with winds of up to 230km/h (145mph) hit the country's south coast.

A state of emergency has been declared on the island, where some 5,000 Britons are believed to be holidaying.

Dean wreaked havoc in the eastern Caribbean and hit Jamaica on Sunday.

The hurricane has already claimed at least six lives in the eastern Caribbean.

There have been no reports so far of casualties in Jamaica where authorities have declared a 30-day state of emergency.

Two Royal Navy ships are heading to the region to offer assistance.

Kirk Abrahams, from Radio Jamaica, said in Kingston power lines were down, poles and trees had fallen and several roads were blocked.

Several sections of the island were cut off by water or land slippages, he added.

Me and my family are due to depart the island tomorrow... and we have no idea if we will be able to do so
Victoria Malbon, Ocho Rios, Jamaica
BBC News website reader

Forecasters say the hurricane may achieve the highest category, five, by the time it reaches Mexico on Monday.

The Foreign Office is advising tourists in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico to consider leaving while air and land links were still operating.

It also warned against all travel to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Virgin Atlantic said its next flight to Jamaica, due to leave on Monday morning, would be delayed until it was clear the airport was "clear and undamaged".

'No panic'

In Jamaica, low-lying areas were evacuated and schools and churches converted into emergency shelters for those with nowhere else to stay.

Brian Roper, director of operations for the Beaches chain of resorts on the island, said his firm had done its best to reassure guests and had evacuated three of its hotels.

The hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from June until November but it's a very popular destination with UK holidaymakers
David Marshall, Association of British Travel Agents

Victoria Malbon, a holidaymaker from Northern Ireland, was in a hotel in Ocho Rios, a town on the northern coast, when the hurricane hit.

"Luckily enough, me and the rest of my family are safe," she said.

She said hotel staff had done what they could to make guests feel safe, but she said she was concerned about the lack of information from airlines.

"Me and my family are due to depart the island tomorrow... and we have no idea if we will be able to do so," she said.

Another tourist Danny Thompson, from Thornton Heath, Surrey, who is staying in Montego Bay with his family, said people had prepared for the worst by buying plywood to batten down their houses.

Two Jamaican boys brave the storm
Winds reached up to 230km/h (145mph)

David Marshall, from the Association of British Travel Agents, told BBC News 24 almost 5,000 UK holidaymakers were on the island despite it being hurricane season.

"The hurricane season in the Caribbean runs from June until November but it's a very popular destination with UK holidaymakers," he added.

The Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) said it was closely monitoring the hurricane's progress.

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The British High Commission in Jamaica has set up a 24-hour phone line for UK nationals seeking advice.

On Monday, the Foreign Office said it was continuing to monitor the situation and was on standby to update travel advice to the region.

British Airways said any UK tourists due to go to the Cayman Islands were being given the option to rebook or take their holidays in the Bahamas instead.

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