Hurricane Ike, now downgraded to a tropical storm, continues to power its way across Texas, leaving a trail of damage in its wake. Not the biggest storm in history, Ike will nevertheless go down as one of the most destructive. Ferocious winds and driving rain left Galveston swamped and facing a massive clear-up operation. Thousands of people fled as Ike approached, but some refused to leave, and there are said to be casualties.
“We have heard some unconfirmed reports of a few deaths,” said US Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. “I do not want to start to speculate about what the numbers are. We hope that it is as small as possible, but we are going to have to wait and see as rescue operations go forward.”
Ike came ashore as a Category Two hurricane. It weakened as it barrelled across Texas, but is expected to take its heavy rains all the way to Canada.
Houston, America’s fourth largest city, was paralysed. Damage to office blocks and apartments could mean insurance claims running into billions. President Bush declared his native Texas and neighbouring Louisiana disaster areas, freeing up federal funds to supplement local state rescue efforts. But there is relief that the predicted catastrophe seems to have been wide of the mark.