Rita no match for Katrina

Port Arthur, Texas - Hurricane Rita whipped up deep floods, wrecked homes, shredded infrastructure and spawned fires and a killer tornado but could not match Hurricane Katrina's murderous march across the US Gulf Coast four weeks ago.

Rita clobbered Louisiana and Texas coastlines dotted with key oil refineries and chemical plants with howling 195 kilometres an hour winds and sheeting rain, leaving a trail of wreckage.

President George W Bush, still trying to escape Katrina's political shadow, surrounded himself meanwhile with senior military planners and rescue chiefs, and praised what he termed a vast, well run-response.

But new criticism flared over the messy evacuation of almost three million people, and some evacuees ignored pleas not to return to homes, in many cases blacked out by power cuts.

Authorities in central Mississippi reported the first known casualty, as one unidentified person was killed by a tornado spun off Rita, downgraded on Saturday to a tropical storm.

No deaths were reported in Louisiana and Texas, though 24 elderly evacuees were killed in an explosion in a bus on Friday as they joined a mass exodus out of the danger zone. An elderly woman also succumbed to heat exhaustion in a traffic jam.

The town of Port Arthur, Texas, close to where Rita's swirling eye came ashore, was left with waist high floods, downed power lines and uprooted trees. Cars lay smashed on the streets and the main refinery was out of reach after the storm struck, News24 reports.

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