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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 September, 2003, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Massive clean-up after hurricane
Collapsed house
It will take months to recover in worst hit areas
Almost four million homes on the east coast of the United States are still without electricity after a powerful hurricane swept into the region leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake.

At least 23 people were killed in a series of storm-related incidents, and winds of up to 160 km/h (100 mph) caused an estimated half a billion dollars of damage, uprooting trees and tearing the roofs off buildings.

Hurricane Isabel, which was briefly listed as a rare maximum Category Five hurricane, has now petered out over Canada and has been downgraded to a tropical depression with winds of about 48km/h.

While the immediate danger is past, there are downed power lines, high water and other dangers
Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency

However, the effects are still being felt in the states of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland where US President George W Bush has declared disaster zones - opening up the way for federal aid to help recovery.

The Department of Homeland Security is co-ordinating the government's response to the disaster, sending relief supplies to the worst-hit areas.

Along with vital stocks of drinking water and food, the department says it has sent 70 lorry loads of tents, cots, portable toilets, generators and basic building materials.

Cautious return

But the authorities are warning that there are still lurking dangers:

"Because Isabel moved through so quickly, we're going to see some blue skies and people will think it's all over with," Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement.

"But we still have a very good chance of some flash flooding. We will still have some rivers that continue to creep up on their banks and overspill."
Emergency worker deals with damaged power line
Emergency teams are working to fix downed power lines

He also warned residents who have been evacuated to be careful when returning to their homes.

"While the immediate danger is past, there are downed power lines, high water and other dangers that still threaten public safety,"

Both Mr Brown and Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge have been touring the area by helicopter in Saturday.

Long haul ahead

Officials in North Carolina's coastal Outer Banks, where dunes were flattened and houses smashed, said the region will not properly recover until next summer.

"All the towns along the coast have lost houses or hotels... It will be months before we get back to normal," said Renee Cahoon, commissioner for Dare County.

Flood waters have been slowly ebbing away, but 3.9 million homes remain without power and many streets, including those in the capital Washington DC, are still littered with debris and downed tree limbs.

Washington flags be repaired
The tattered flags lining the Washington memorial are having to be repaired
Clean-up teams have been using chain saws to cut up the branches and haul them away.

At the historic home of America's first president George Washington, at Mount Vernon, a large chunk was torn from the last remaining tree on the estate planted by Washington himself.

Executive Director Jim Rees said it is not yet known whether the white ash, planted in 1785, could be saved.

But amid the gloom there was at least one note of happiness.

A couple in Norfolk, Virginia, are said to have named their baby, born on Friday, Isabel - after the hurricane, ABC News television reported.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Linden Kemkaran
"Roads were swamped and land became ocean"



SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Washington after the storm
19 Sep 03  |  Photo Gallery
Isabel shuts Washington
18 Sep 03  |  Americas
In pictures: Isabel comes ashore
18 Sep 03  |  Photo Gallery
Bermuda counts cost of hurricane
07 Sep 03  |  Americas
Hurricane Isabel: Your experiences
18 Sep 03  |  Have Your Say


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