Hurricane Rita: Relief as hurricane fears fade

Millions were able to breathe a sigh of relief as the latest hurricane to hit the southern US failed to wreak the level of destruction that had been feared.

Hurricane Rita dwindled from a Category 4 storm to barely hurricane status and spared the flood-prone Texas cities of Houston and Galveston.

There were no immediate reports of fatalities or significant damage to the area's vast oil refinery industry.

However rescue and search teams in many areas had to wait for winds to subside before venturing out to assess the situation.

Some three million people had fled a 500-mile stretch of the Texas-Louisiana coast ahead of the storm. Many feared there would be a repeat of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina just weeks ago.

Despite never reaching that level of intensity, the latest powerful storm did bring driving rain which flooded low-lying regions. It also knocked out power to more than a million people and sparked fires across the region, Manchester Evening News reports.

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