US President George W. Bush is leaving for his home state of Texas Friday to check on preparations for Hurricane Rita, which has downgraded to Category 3 as it closes in upon US Gulf Coast.
Before his departure, Bush inspected the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) here, and pledged that his administration will help local authorities and people to cope with the looming hurricane.
It is the government's duty to assist state and local governments, he said.
After his Texas trip, Bush will fly to the headquarters of US Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to monitor Rita's expected landfall early Saturday.
Bush administration officials said with 62 billion US dollars already approved by US Congress for relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there is still money available to cover the needs for the new hurricane, with some 46 billion dollars left in FEMA's coffer.
According to latest reports from the National Hurricane Center, Rita has weakened to a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 201 kph, down from a fearsome Category 5 hurricane with 282-kph winds Wednesday.
It will probably land on upper Texas-Louisiana coast early Saturday on a course that could spare Houston and nearby Galveston a direct hit.
Instead, it could plow into the oil and chemical centers of Beaumont and Port Arthur, about 120 km east of Houston.
Texan officials predicted the storm will destroy at least 6,000 homes, with some 5.2 million people affected and 6.2 billion dollars in economic losses.