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Hurricane Rita Pummels US Gulf Coast


Hurricane Rita has crashed onto the U.S. shore along the Texas - Louisiana border.

Packing sustained winds approaching 200 kilometers per hour, the dangerous storm struck the coastline in the pre-dawn hours Saturday, and is now pummeling the region with battering winds and rain.

Hurricane Rita has caused destruction in the Texas towns of Beaumont and Port Arthur, as well as Lake Charles in Louisiana and towns in between.

The chief of Beaumont's fire department Micky Bertrand says streets are filled with debris, windows have shattered, some homes have caught fire and electricity is out. Fires have also broken out in other locations.

Tornado warnings have been issued in parts of the U.S. Gulf Coast states. They also say 60 centimeters of rain could fall over some areas during the slow-moving storm.

The country's fourth-largest city of Houston apparently has been spared the strongest effects of the massive storm, which has hurricane-force winds stretching 135 kilometers from its core.

Forecasters say the storm will weaken in the coming hours, but likely cause new power outages as it moves inland to northeastern Texas over the next few days.

More than two-million people along the Texas and Louisiana coastal region evacuated ahead of Hurricane Rita.

To the east of the hurricane, heavy rains breached some levees in devastated New Orleans, once again flooding parts of the city nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina more than three weeks ago.

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