2.7 million Texans returned home after hurricane Rita

In Houston, where 2.5 million residents fled Rita's approach, tens of thousands were able to return yesterday. In New Orleans, the slow slog towards recovery, which was interrupted when hurricane Rita rammed the Gulf Coast, resumed on Sunday as Mayor Ray Nagin reiterated his intention to reopen parts of the city this week, the Age reports.

The storm reached land Sept. 24 near the border between Texas and Louisiana, flooding towns like Port Arthur, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana, and wiping out others. Initial assessments, though, estimated Rita caused a quarter to a third of what some insurance analysts had expected and far less than the $40 billion to $60 billion predicted for Katrina.

Some harder-hit parts of southeastern Texas, such as Jasper and Polk counties, don't have a return date yet. Rita slammed into Louisiana just east of the border with Texas two days ago, as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 120 mph. It then moved inland over Texas and passed near the towns of Port Arthur and Beaumont. Jefferson and Orange counties were the worst-hit in Texas and were closed to traffic, according to the Texas transportation department. Both Rita and Katrina disrupted oil supply in the Gulf, home to 44 percent of U.S. refining capacity and 30 percent of production. Crude oil and gasoline fell today as refiners including Exxon Mobil Corp. resumed fuel shipments after plants around the Houston oil hub, which account for 12 percent of U.S. capacity, escaped damage from Rita.

No life-saving rescues were necessary in Texas, . No deaths were reported in Louisiana, according to Sergeant Nicholas Stahl of the state's emergency management department. One person died in a tornado spawned by Rita in Mississippi, CNN reported. Katrina killed more than 1,000 people from Louisiana to Florida. Louisiana will ask the federal government for $11.5 billion to repair highways and other transportation and $22.2 billion more to repair and reinforce levees and other systems needed to protect the state during hurricanes, Governor Kathleen Blanco said yesterday. AM

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