About one million New Orleans people fled the low-lying southern US city on Sunday, as Hurricane Katrina starts whipping Louisiana.
"We are facing the storm that most of us have feared," said New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as he issued an unprecedented mandatory evacuation order for the city known as "The Big Easy."
"I do not want to create panic. But I do want the citizens to understand that this is very serious and it's of the highest nature," Nagin said.
The brunt of Katrina, which had 160-mph (266-kph) winds on Sunday evening, was expected to crash ashore around sunrise on Monday, reports Xinhua.
According to Risk Management Solutions, a Newark, California-based risk forecaster, insured property in New Orleans and the seven surrounding parishes totals more than $110 billion.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. is the largest insurer of homes in Louisiana, followed by Allstate, AIG, the Louisiana Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. and St. Paul, the Insurance Information Institute said.
State Farm, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. and Allstate are the biggest in neighboring Mississippi.
Bill Mellander, a spokesman for Northbrook, Illinois-based Allstate, said the largest publicly traded U.S. auto and home insurer is deploying claims adjusters near where it expects the worst damage.
Losses from the four Florida hurricanes nearly wiped out Allstate's third-quarter earnings last year, informs Washington Post. Photo: the AP