Residents cope with Gustav aftermath; more storms approach available (2nd Roundup)
Sep 3, 2008, 4:14 GMT
Washington - US Gulf Coast residents were reeling from the impact of Hurricane Gustav, the monster storm that had 2 million people fleeing their homes before winding down to a tropical depression Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of anxious evacuees were unable to return home, and officials warned they would have to stay in shelters, motels or with friends for a few more days.
Those who did not evacuate faced power outages, damaged roads, flooding and powerful gusts that prevented repairs. Officials were still to begin estimating the extent and cost of the damage.
Gustav, which crashed into Louisiana with roaring winds of 177 kilometres per hour Monday, whimpered down with sustained winds of 55 kilometres per hour on Tuesday, the Miami-based US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.
US President George W Bush issued a disaster declaration for Louisiana, freeing up federal assistance to aid victims.
At least three more tropical storms were brewing in the region, and officials cautioned those who survived Gustav not to get complacent.
The most immediate threat was from Hanna, which is forecast to regain hurricane strength over the next two days as it sweeps over the Bahamas and heads for the southeastern US coast.
Late Tuesday the storm was nearly stationary about 720 kilometres south-east of Nassau.
Tropical Storms Ike and Josephine had already formed in the central and eastern Atlantic respectively and were rapidly moving westward, NHC said.
Josephine, the 10th tropical storm of the season, was gaining momentum with winds of 65 kilometres per hour, while Ike was tossing around at 95 kilometres per hour. Both were forecast to develop into hurricanes.
Gustav's approach prompted the largest evacuation in Louisiana's history - and even though it weakened substantially Tuesday most residents couldn't return home. At least 1.4 million households were without power, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said.
'We're still being impacted by the eastern periphery of this storm,' Jindal said, referring to the persistent rain and the possibility of tornadoes.
New Orlean's mayor Ray Nagin asked people eager to check on their homes to 'hold tight for today.'
'We have over 50 per cent of our citizens without power. Our sewer system is damaged and not operational. And our hospitals are still with skeletal crews. So we'll repair most of that today and tomorrow and start the process for re-entry thereafter,' Nagin told CNN.
In Mississippi, at least 92,000 households remained without power, the state's Emergency Management Agency said.
On Tuesday, Bush said it was too early to tell how much the hurricane had damaged oil infrastructure off the Gulf Coast, but urged Congress to approve more offshore oil drilling in the aftermath of Gustav.
Most of the US oil and gas platforms and pipelines are located in the waters south of Louisiana and east of Texas.
'When Congress comes back, they've got to understand that we need more domestic energy, not less - and one place to find it is offshore America, lands that have been taken off the books, so to speak, by congressional law,' Bush said.
'This storm ... ought to cause the Congress to step up their need to address our dependence on foreign oil. And one place to do so is to give us a chance to explore in environmentally friendly ways on the Outer Continental Shelf.'
At least 12 deaths in the US were blamed on Gustav, which earlier killed 80 people as it travelled across the Caribbean and Cuba over the last week with winds of up to 250 kilometres per hour.
But it was nothing like the killer storm of 2005, named Katrina, that took 1,800 lives, flooded New Orleans for more than a week and trapped tens of thousands without food and water for days.