Southern US braces itself for Ike's fury

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Southern US braces itself for Ike's fury

 Southern US braces itself for Ike's fury
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Torrential rain and high winds have caused devastation across northern Cuba in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

Few official figures have emerged, but it is known that four people died and tens of thousands of buildings were damaged.

Crops have been destroyed and experts predict the country’s fledgling tourist industry will be affected.

2.6 million people have been evacuated from their homes.

In neighbouring Haiti, the UN says around 800,000 people, nearly half of them children, are living in temporary shelters.

Ike was the fourth tropical storm to hit the island in three weeks. More than 550 people are thought to have died.

The UN has appealed for 70 million euros in emergency aid.

Now the southern US is bracing itself for the arrival of Ike, which has strengthened to a category two storm over the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts are predicting it could reach category four strength in the next 48 hours before making landfall.

US President George W Bush has declared a state of emergency in Texas, where the storm is due to hit on Saturday.

Two-thirds of offshore oil and gas production has been halted as a precaution.