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Page last updated at 17:22 GMT, Tuesday, 2 September 2008 18:22 UK

Louisiana counts cost of Gustav

Flooded road in New Orleans - 1/9/2008
Gustav flooded some low-lying areas where it made landfall on Monday

Hurricane Gustav has caused major damage to the US state of Louisiana, its governor, Bobby Jindal, has said.

The hurricane destroyed homes and flooded some low-lying areas where it made landfall on Monday.

But the worst of the storm, which has now moved inland from the Gulf coast, missed New Orleans - the city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Rebuilt levees appear to have held back surging floodwaters, although officials urged caution to returning citizens.

Governor Jindal said there were reports of widespread damage across Terrebonne, Lafourche and St Mary parishes - all close to where the eye of the hurricane hit land.

He also said there were unconfirmed reports of significant damage in northern Louisiana.

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Matthew Price explores the deserted streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans

"The storm was expected to head more west. Instead it went through Louisiana and so literally now you have a storm that has caused widespread damage through a wide geographic part of our state," Mr Jindal told a news conference.

He said there were no reports of widespread flooding but heavy rain still posed a danger for southern Louisiana.

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Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff credited the mass evacuation of New Orleans and the Gulf coast with avoiding "grave tales of danger and loss of life".

Map of Hurricane Gustav's route

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has advised the two million people who fled inland ahead of Gustav's arrival to stay away from the city for at least another day.

"Re-entry is just days away, but residents shouldn't return Tuesday," Mr Nagin said, adding that officials would check the scale of damage.

"Trees are down all over the city, power lines are down all over the city, and there is a significant number of homes and businesses without energy."

US officials reported eight storm-related deaths, according to the Associated Press news agency, adding to the 90 people Gustav killed across the Caribbean last week.

Gustav is now quickly losing strength and has been downgraded to below tropical storm strength, the Florida-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its final advisory on the storm.

In preparation for the storm, oil companies had shut down nearly all production in the Gulf region, which accounts for about 25% of domestic output in the US.

On Monday, the price of oil in the US fell more than $4 a barrel to just above $111 - partly because Gustav was weaker than expected earlier.

FLASHBACK TO KATRINA
Katrina struck US Gulf Coast in August 2005 as a Category Three storm, killing more than 1,800 people
New Orleans was 80% flooded after storm surge breached protective levees
US government was blamed for slow, botched response that exacerbated disaster
Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced

The exodus from the Louisiana coast was the largest evacuation in state history.

Only 10,000 of New Orleans's population of 200,000 remained.

Tens of thousands were also reported to have left coastal Mississippi, Alabama and south-eastern Texas.

In New Orleans, a strong sea surge had been feared and water cleared some levees as the outer rim of the storm brought heavy rains and winds.

The city's pumps kept up with the flow, said a spokesman for the army unit responsible for the city's flood defences.

In 2005, three-quarters of New Orleans was flooded by a storm surge that claimed more than 1,800 lives in coastal areas.

The Category Three storm Katrina swept away the city's levees under a wall of mud and water.

Concern for those facing the hurricane prompted the Republican party to scale back its national convention in St Paul, Minnesota, where Senator John McCain is due to accept the party's nomination for president this week.

Meanwhile, Hanna has been downgraded to a tropical storm as its winds weakened near the Bahamas in the Atlantic ocean, the NHC said, adding that it could regain strength later on Tuesday or Wednesday.

In addition to Hanna, Tropical Storm Ike has formed midway between the Caribbean and Africa, and could become a hurricane within two days, the centre said.


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