11 Sep 2008

Hurricane Ike heads towards Texas

10:29 pm on 11 September 2008

The United States is bracing itself for the arrival of Hurricane Ike, which has strengthened to a category two storm as it travels over the Gulf of Mexico.

The storm has already killed more than 70 people in the Caribbean and caused widespread destruction.

In Haiti, the United Nations says about 800,000 people, nearly half of them children, are in temporary shelters.

US President Bush has declared a state of emergency in Texas, where the storm is due to make landfall on Saturday.

Forecasters said Ike is likely gain even more power in the Gulf of Mexico's warm waters and become a major storm over the next 24 hours, increasing strength to a Category 3 on the five-step hurricane intensity scale.

Latest projections pointed Ike toward the middle of the Texas coast, skirting to the west of the main region for offshore production in the gulf, which provides a quarter of US oil and 15% of its natural gas.

Ike has already caused serious damage in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southern Bahamas.

Floods triggered by torrential rains were blamed for at least 71 deaths in Haiti, where Tropical Storm Hanna killed 500 people last week.

Ike struck eastern Cuba on Sunday with 195 kph winds and torrential rains that destroyed buildings, wiped out the electricity grid, toppled trees, leveled crops including sugar cane fields and turned rivers into roaring torrents.