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New Orleans levee breachs again as 20 killed in Texas exodus
www.chinaview.cn 2005-09-24 00:39:48

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (Xinhuanet) -- Flood water breached a levee again in the southern US city of New Orleans, Louisiana, on Fridayas some 20 evacuees were killed in a bus fire during the massive exodus in Texas ahead of Hurricane Rita's landfall.

    In a possible replay of New Orleans' flood nightmare, heavy rains sent water pouring through breaches in a patched levee, cascading into one of the city's lowest-lying neighborhoods.

    According to local officials, there are three significant breeches in that levee and the water is rising rapidly.

    Dozens of blocks in the once submerged Ninth Ward neighborhood are once again under water as a waterfall at least 30 feet wide poured over and through the levee.

    The water is rising about three inches a minute.

    Ninth Ward was one of the areas of the city hit hardest by Katrina's floodwaters and finally had been pumped dry before Hurricane Rita struck.

    Officials said they believe that the Ninth Ward is cleared of residents.

    Mitch Frazier, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, said contractors were being brought on Friday morning in an effort to repair the new damage.

    The corps had earlier installed 60-foot sections of metal across some of the city's canals to protect against flooding and storm surges.

    Forecasters have called for between 3 and 5 inches of rain in New Orleans as Rita passes Friday and Saturday, dangerously close to the 6 inches of rain that Corps officials say the patched levees can withstand.

    Another concern is the storm surge accompanying Rita, which could send water rising as much as 4 feet above high tide.

    Because of uncertain weather conditions from Hurricane Rita, the recovery of bodies was suspended but previous discoveries pushed the death toll from Hurricane Katrina to 841 in Louisiana, and at least 1,078 across the Gulf Coast.

    As many as 500,000 people in southwestern Louisiana, many of them already displaced by Hurricane Katrina, were told to evacuateand many jammed roads north to escape.

    In neighboring Texas where Rita will land, a traffic-snarled exodus of nearly one million Houston residents has caused a deadlock on highway.

    Up to 20 people Friday were killed when a bus carrying elderly evacuees caught fire near Dallas, Texas.

    There are 45 people on the bus and the number of the injured isstill unknown.

    The accident caused a traffic jam expanding some 30 km on the Interstate 45 highway as tens of thousands of people are on their way toward north to flee the upcoming hurricane.

    There are indications that oxygen equipments used by elderly evacuees on the bus may be the cause of the fire.

    US President George W. Bush is leaving for his home state Texas Friday to examine preparations for Hurricane Rita, a major storm likely to hit US Gulf Coast over the weekend.

    The White House said the president will visit San Antonio, Texas, to get first-hand information of the hurricane and government's response.

    Then he will fly to the headquarters of US Northern Command in Colorado, where he will watch the hurricane's landfall later in the day or early Saturday.

    Bush's aides said the president is pleased with the fact that most of the residents in Gulf Coast are obeying evacuation orders and seem to have learned a lot in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which struck southern United States three weeks ago.

    National Hurricane Center said Rita has veered slightly to the east during its journey toward Texas coastline, with sustained winds of 225 kph.

    As a result, Houston and Galveston, the two Texan cities had been feared to be directly hit, could avoid that scenario.

    The storm is expected to make landfall near Port Arthur, Texas,later Friday or early Saturday. Enditem

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