Mexico and Belize have issued hurricane warnings as Hurricane Dean churns across the Caribbean, bringing torrential rains and winds of more than 240 kilometers-per-hour.

The powerful storm struck Jamaica Sunday. The island nation set up emergency shelters, switched off electricity and told residents to take cover. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Jamaica is likely to rescind a hurricane warning Monday when officials will be able to start assessing the damage.

The extremely dangerous storm is passing south of the Cayman Islands Monday morning.

Forecasters say the storm will hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula - which separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico - late Monday or early Tuesday.

They expect the storm to strengthen as it spins across warm Caribbean waters. Forecasters say Dean's winds could exceed 250 kilometers-per-hour when it hits Mexico.

The hurricane has killed at least eight people in the Caribbean. Damage reports are ongoing. Evacuation calls were sounded for areas considered at risk, from the Cayman Islands to the U.S. state of Texas.

The storm prompted the U.S. space agency to order the shuttle Endeavour to begin its return flight to Earth Sunday for a Tuesday landing - one day earlier than had been planned.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.