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Hurricane Ike smashes Houston

September 15, 2008 10:24 IST

As the Hurricane Ike moves inland over Missouri and Illinois on Monday prompting flood warnings, the lives of over two million people have come to a standstill.

Though, the storm weakened to a tropical depression as it came ashore on Galveston Island, the local authorities said they will take some time to get electricity restored in the affected areas, said Mike Rodgers, a spokesman for Entergy Texas, the primary electricity provider between Houston and the Louisiana border.

Giant hurricane Ike has left Houston without Internet, phone lines, drinking water and severed power to millions after ripping through the fourth-largest city on Sunday.

Rodgers said damage to the electric grid was much more widespread than after Hurricane Rita, which hit the area in 2005.

Ike, the first hurricane to hit a major US metropolitan area since Katrina in 2005, has affected 2.3 million people in two states before making landfall at 2.10 am on Saturday.

With wind gusts approaching 100 miles per hour, the 600-mile-wide Category 2 hurricane peeled sheets of steel off skyscrapers in Houston, smashed bus shelters and blew out windows leaving the city and its coastal areas in debris.

In Orange, Tex, near the Louisiana coast, the sea rose so rapidly that people were forced to flee to attics and roofs, and the city used trucks to rescue them, local police said.

There were reports of as many as four people killed, but it could take days to search flooded homes to assess the full impact of the storm, officials said.

President George W Bush declared the state a major disaster area, offering prompt federal assistance to those living in the 29 counties ravaged by Ike. He will travel to Texas on September 16.

Obviously, this is a huge storm that is causing a lot of damage not only in Texas but also in parts of Louisiana, Bush said.

Yet officials expressed relief that the damage was not as catastrophic as federal and state officials had warned it would be.

The magnitude of the power loss and the flooding has also raised the possibility that several major oil refineries would take more than a week to reopen.

As a result, gasoline prices may probably spike around the country, even if oil prices continue to ease on international markets.

Many oil refiners along the Gulf of Mexico prepared to reopen their plants after shutting ahead of Ike's approach, reducing the nation's refining capacity by almost a fifth.   

Appreciating the patience of the people, Houston Mayor Bill White said, "We need to be patient; it can't be done in a day."

People have been warned to drink only boiled water or spring water, as flooding may have tainted it with bacteria. Meanwhile, Houston's airports, that have stopped flights since Friday morning are planning to reopen to commercial flights today with limited service after suffering some damage from Hurricane Ike.
Seema Hakhu Kachru in Houston
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