Hurrikane Rita wreaks havoc on oil town

Hurrikane Rita cut a path of destruction through the major oil refinery and chemical processing town of Port Arthur overnight, downing trees and ripping off roofs as it smashed into the US Gulf Coast.

As dawn broke, much of town was cut off by waist-high flood water and downed powerlines, cars lay smashed beneath uprooted trees and the main refinery, a major employer for the town's 56,000 people, was out of reach.

Port Arthur lay almost dead centre in the path of the storm's swirling eye as it made landfall on the Texas/Louisiana border at 3:39 am local time, between the major cities of Houston and New Orleans.

But as police and emergency workers assessed the damage across the storm zone, most expressed relief that Rita had not packed the same sort of knockout punch delivered by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, which killed more than 1,000 people throughout the region.

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