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Sunday, September 27, 1998 Published at 03:39 GMT 04:39 UK

World: Americas

Hurricane Georges pounds Gulf coast

The aptly named Water Street in Mobile, Alabama

Damian Grammaticas reports on the rush to leave town
A record gust of wind of almost 280kph (170mph) has been recorded in Biloxi, Mississippi, as Hurricane Georges continues to batter the southern United States.

An estimated 1.5 million people have already been advised to abandon their homes in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama as torrential rain raises fears of flooding.

[ image: It is a race against time to leave the coast]
It is a race against time to leave the coast
More than 100,000 homes along the coast are without electricity as thousands of people flee the area or seek refuge in shelters.

Several low-lying delta towns near New Orleans have already been submerged under water.

New Orleans escapes worst

However, New Orleans itself, which was predicted to take the brunt of the storm, now appears to have missed the worst of the devastation.

Lisa Costello: The worst conditions yet
The hurricane has largely avoided the city - which is six feet below sea level - after it made a slight change of course on Monday.

The storm centre drifted within 160km (100 miles) of New Orleans before veering off towards Mississippi. It is now expected to make landfall at Biloxi later on Monday.

[ image: Shelters in New Orleans are now full]
Shelters in New Orleans are now full
The US National Hurricane Centre says Georges is threatening to bring "large and dangerous battering waves" with predicted downpours of up to 25 inches.

Crawling along at a few kilometres an hour, Georges looks set to remain in the area at least until Wednesday, carrying hurricane force winds 72km (45 miles) from the storm's centre and tropical force winds covering a further 280km (175 miles).

As yet there are no reports of hurricane-related fatalities in the US.

BBC's Paul Reynolds: The streets of Mobile, Alabama are deserted
However, Georges killed more than 300 people - most of them in Haiti and the Dominican Republic - on its sweep through the Caribbean in the last few days.

Georges has been the most dangerous product of this hurricane season, but three more tropical weather systems are following close behind in the Atlantic.

However, the systems - Jeanne, Ivan and Karl - are weakening and will not pose anything like the threat of their more violent cousin.

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American Red Cross: Are You Ready for a Hurricane?

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