Holidaymakers braced for Jamaica hurricane


British holidaymakers on Jamaica were braced for the arrival of Tropical Storm Sandy which is expected to reach hurricane force when it reaches the Caribbean island later today.

With the island's Kingston airport closed, British Airways cancelled yesterday's UK-bound flight from Jamaica and also axed today's Kingston-bound service from Gatwick.

Virgin Atlantic said its 11.40am flight today from Gatwick to Jamaica's Montego Bay would now leave at 10.45am tomorrow.

Virgin added that its VS66 flight from Montego Bay to Gatwick, which should have departed at 7.30pm local time today, would now leave Jamaica at 4.45pm tomorrow, arriving at Gatwick on Friday morning.

A BA spokesman said: "We have had to cancel BA2263 today which would have left Gatwick for Kingston at 11.35am.

"Kingston airport is shut.

"We are rebooking affected passengers on other flights.

"We have a flight due to go out to Jamaica tomorrow and we're hoping that will be able to operate.

"There may be delays depending on the state of Kingston airport."

With Sandy continuing to strengthen as it approaches the south coast of Jamaica, cruise company Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas liner did not dock at Jamaica and was continuing at sea.

UK tourists on Jamaica, taking advantage of lower package holiday prices away from the peak Christmas-to-Easter period in the Caribbean, were already experiencing heavy rain ahead of Sandy's approach.

As well as the airport closing, schools, government offices and Kingston port was closed.

There were reports of people flocking to stores to stock up on food.

Two years ago, there were six deaths when Tropical Storm Nicole hit Jamaica.

In 1988, Jamaica and the Caribbean were hit by Hurricane Gilbert - one of the worst-ever storms of its kind.

Over the whole region, more than 400 lives were lost, with damage running into billions of pounds.