Rapidly-strengthening Hurricane Rita has brought strong winds, storm surges and heavy rain to the low-lying Florida Keys.
All 80,000 residents had been ordered to leave the US chain of islands but many stayed behind in boarded-up homes, determined to sit out the storm. State Governor Jeb Bush told those remaining to take shelter. “If you have not left the Keys already, stay where you are,” he said. “This is now not the time to evacuate. Many people did do that yesterday, for which we are grateful, but now is the time to hunker down.” Rita is expected to strengthen further as it moves towards the Gulf of Mexico, becoming a major hurriance with winds of at least 178 kilometres an hour. Cuba escaped the worst of Hurricane Rita, although there was minor flooding in the northwest. There, tens of thousands of people had been evacuated from their homes. Tourists were moved to more secure locations and in Havana most people stayed indoors.