'Rita' Wrecks Houses, Facilities as It Clobbers Louisiana and Texas

Manila Bulletin, September 26, 2005 | Go to article overview

'Rita' Wrecks Houses, Facilities as It Clobbers Louisiana and Texas


Byline: PATRICK MOSER

PORT ARTHUR, Texas (AFP) - Hurricane Rita delivered deep floods, wrecked homes, shredded infrastructure, spectacular fires and a killer tornado, but failed to match Hurricane Katrina's murderous march along the US Gulf Coast four weeks ago.

In the wake of the storm, President George W. Bush, still stuck in Katrina's political shadow, surrounded himself with top military planners and rescue chiefs, and said the response went well.But new criticism flared over the messy evacuation of almost three million people, and some evacuees ignored pleas not to return to homes, in many cases blacked out by power cuts.Rita clobbered Louisiana and Texas coastlines dotted with key oil refineries and chemical plants with howling 195-kilometer-perhour (125 miles) winds and sheeting rain, in the early hours of Saturday, leaving a trail of wreckage.

Authorities in central Mississippi reported the first known casualty, as an unidentified person was killed by a tornado spun off the remnants of Rita.

No deaths were reported in Louisiana and Texas, though 24 elderly evacuees were killed in an explosion in a bus Friday as they joined a mass exodus out of the danger zone. An elderly woman also succumbed to heat exhaustion in a traffic jam.

The town of Port Arthur, Texas, close to where Rita's swirling eye came ashore, was awash in waist- high floods, downed power lines, and uprooted trees. Cars lay smashed on the streets and the main refinery was out of reach after the storm struck.

''It was pretty scary,'' said John Harrison, whose wooden home was ringed by a foot (33 centimeters) of water as dawn revealed damage wrought during a wild night.

Real estate agent Brandon Allen, 32, said he expected the storm to be ''a heck of a lot worse'' after Katrina trashed New Orleans and much of the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama coastline last Aug. 29, killing more than 1,000 people.

Authorities held nine people for looting in the town and ordered a curfew to prevent an escalation of lawlessness, Mayor Oscar Ortiz told CNN.

In nearby Lake Charles, police and fire crews went on a house-to-house hunt looking for bodies -- but found none.

There was widespread damage, the waters of Lake Charles were rising, and a fierce wind blew off the lake, but the town was counting its blessings.

''It's not as bad as I feared ... We were fortunate,'' said the town's police chief, Don Dixon.In Louisiana, the Coast Guard said it had rescued had rescued 40 people in heavily flooded areas, despite battling tropical storm force winds. …

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