Evacuation ordered in US island chain ahead of tropical storm

An evacuation order was issued Monday for Florida Keys as a tropical storm is moving quickly towards the southern US island chain.

The order will prompt the evacuation of some 40,000 residents and tourists in the Atlantic archipelago near southeastern US mainland, US TV network CNN reported.

According to latest weather reports, Tropical Storm Rita is sustaining winds of 97 kph earlier Monday, and is likely to be upgraded to a level 1 hurricane by the time it passes the Florida Keys.

Earlier, Florida Governor Jeb Bush on Sunday declared a state of emergency for his state which includes the island chain of Florida Keys.

His order will give the state authority to oversee evacuations and activate the National Guard.

US National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield warned that people in some areas still recovering from Hurricane Katrina should be watching Rita.

"This is definitely becoming a concern for the northwestern Gulf of Mexico," he said, noting that Rita could pose a threat to Texas and Louisiana within days.

Rita is the 17th named storm of this year's Atlantic hurricane season, which started June 1 and will end Nov. 30.

It is also the third tropical system to emerge from the Atlantic in two weeks.

Tropical Storm Phillippe was upgraded to a hurricane Sunday night, while Tropical Storm Ophelia was fading into the North Atlantic.

Source: Xinhua

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