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Home >> World
UPDATED: 08:31, September 22, 2005
Hurricane Rita gains strength, moves towards Texas
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Hurricane Rita has substantially gained strength to a destructive Category 4 storm Wednesday as it is moving towards the coastline of the US Gulf State of Texas.

The Miami-based National Hurricane Center reported that at 1200 GMT Wednesday, the center of Rita was about 313 km west of Key West, a city in the island chain off southeast US coast, and was 1279 km east of Texas.

The upgrade put Rita in the same category of Hurricane Katrina, which hit US Gulf Coast on Aug. 29 and has become the worst-ever natural disaster in US history.

As a Category 4 storm, Rita could sustain winds of 210 to 249 kph, and can cause extreme damage.

The latest forecast predicted the center of Rita to make landfall near Galveston, Texas, late Friday or early Saturday.

The path of Rita will probably be between New Orleans, Louisiana and Brownsville, Texas.

In Galveston, a city flattened by a hurricane in 1900, a state of emergency was declared Tuesday night and mandatory evacuation of the whole city will begin later in the day.

In elsewhere along the Texas coastline, local authorities were geared up to make preparations for the upcoming hurricane.

In Houston, Texas, which hosts some 1,100 Katrina victims, will be forced to start a new evacuation of the evacuees, since the city could in the path of Rita.

In Louisiana, Governor Kathleen Blanco has declared a state of emergency for areas in the southwest part of the state, which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina only three weeks ago.

With new hurricane looming, the still-recovering city of New Orleans, Louisiana, has begun a re-evacuation plan for those who just came back to their homes after Katrina.

Mayor Ray Nagin said 500 buses are ready to take people out of the city.

During his fifth trip to Katrina-ravaged regions, US President George W. Bush on Tuesday issued a federal emergency declaration for the state of Florida, at the request of his younger brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

The US military are preparing for new relief missions. US warships Iwo Jima and Shreveport have orders to steam out of New Orleans if the storm stayed on course.

US National Guard troops in southeast Louisiana may be repositioned to high-rise parking lots and similar facilities to be ready to react in case there is more flooding in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, 3,000 military buses are available for new evacuation tasks in the state.

Rita is the ninth hurricane in this Atlantic hurricane season starting June 1. So far there are no casualty reports related to the hurricane.

Since the start of this year, two hurricanes have made landfall on US soil, namely Dennis and Katrina.

The latter has become the worst natural disaster throughout US history and 1,035 people have been confirmed dead so far.

Source: Xinhua

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