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Louisiana Residents Evacuate Ahead of Hurricane

  • VOA News

Officials in the southern U.S. state of Louisiana have ordered residents to evacuate their homes ahead of Hurricane Gustav, which is expected to hit land near the city of New Orleans on Monday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Sunday evening Gustav's winds were 185 kilometers per hour. Forecasters warned the hurricane could strengthen overnight. They said the center of the storm was located 350 kilometers southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving toward the northwest at about 30 kilometers per hour.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said on Sunday that all 64 of the state's parishes (counties) have declared states of emergency. He also said no one should assume the levees of New Orleans are as strong as they need to be. Levee failure during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 flooded most of the city.

Federal disaster management officials say they are moving emergency supplies and personnel into positions at locations around the expected landfall area.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said he is imposing a nighttime curfew in the city and doubling the police force. He called Gustav "the storm of the century."

President Bush plans to travel to the neighboring state of Texas Monday to meet with emergency workers. He said he hopes to visit Louisiana as soon as conditions permit.

Last week Gustav crossed over Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, taking at least 80 lives. In Cuba, state media say some 250-thousand people were evacuated from Gustav's path as it crossed the island Saturday -- but no deaths were reported.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told reporters Sunday that local authorities are much better prepared for this storm than they were for Hurricane Katrina.

Federal and local authorities were roundly criticized for a slow response to that storm, which killed some 14-hundred people and devastated the Gulf Coast.

Local official Aaron Broussard (president of Jefferson Parish) has pleaded with residents to "have the courage to leave" despite fears of losing homes and property -- in some cases, homes repaired or rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. He said those who ignore evacuation orders will not be able to count on local or state services to survive the crisis.

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