The main news from the States this morning is the imminent arrival of Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 storm that has been downgraded to Category 4 as it approaches land. An unprecedented mandatory evacuation of New Orleans in Louisiana was ordered but shelters were set up for the homeless, those with no transport or too frail to move. A hurricane warning is in place from Morgan City, Louisiana eastward to the Alabama-Florida line, and the tornado threat ahead of the hurricane continues to increase for areas of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.
Casinos built on barges along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi were ordered closed from 2 a.m. Sunday morning and most residents were moving inland. In New Orleans, a city below sea level, the hurricane is expected to cause tremendous damage with a 28-foot storm surge. The city has not taken a direct hit from a hurricane since 1965. The Gulf Coast region is crucial to the US energy infrastructure and crude oil futures have risen to an all-time high of US$70 a barrel in Singapore.
Texas has sent a 90-member urban search and rescue team to Louisiana to assist with the aftermath of the hurricane. Even when the storm loses intensity as it moves over land, areas as far away as Pennsylvania are anticipating extensive flooding if dam levels rise too high. According to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there will be an above-normal hurricane season, with double the usual number of tropical storms and around 6 major hurricanes instead of the normal 2-3. The hurricane season lasts until November. (E-08.29.05)
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