The approach of Hurricane Rita has prompted a mass exodus on the coast of Texas, with more than a million people seeking refuge inland. Traffic came to a virtual standstill and petrol was in short supply as hundreds of thousands of residents rushed to leave the city of Houston.
“The state of Texas had an orderly plan to get people out of some of the coastal areas,” said Houston Mayor Bill White. “Now is not a time for warnings, now is a time for actions for those to evacuate if they are in the areas ordered to evacuate.”
Rita is currently in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. It was expected to hit shore late on Friday or early Saturday. Winds at its centre have been measured as high as 270 kilometres-per-hour, making it a top Category 5 hurricane. Residents of the island city of Galveston, Corpus Christi were among the 1.3 million Texans told to evacuate.
The people of Galveston are well aware of the potential impact of the storm – the town was the scene of America’s deadliest hurricane in 1900, which claimed some 8,000 lives. Authorities say eighty percent of Galveston residents have left, leaving it a virtual ghost town.