New Orleans reopening suspended

New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin has suspended the reopening of New Orleans to residents due to concerns over Hurricane Rita.

“The conditions have changed. We have another hurricane approaching us,” Nagin said.

Rita, now a Category 1 hurricane, is predicted to enter the Gulf of Mexico and continue gathering strength. At this time it is forecast to strengthen to Category 3 or higher and hit Texas, though the possibility exists that it could also impact Louisiana and other areas still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

Earlier, Coast Guard Vice-Admiral Thad Allen, head of the recovery effort, warned that the threat of more storms complicated plans to re-open the city.

“Whatever population goes into New Orleans right now, there has to be an evacuation plan on how to get them out in the event of another hurricane,” he said, speaking on US television station CBS.

Speaking after a meeting with his Homeland Security Council, President George W Bush said his administration was “cautious about encouraging people to return at this moment of history.”

He stressed that the city needed to re-emerge, but it was “a matter of timing.”

“The mayor has got this dream about having his city up and running,” said Mr Bush. “We share that dream, but we also want to be realistic about some of the hurdles and obstacles.” — BBC News

The latest death toll from Hurricane Katrina stands at 973, from which 736 were from Louisiana, 218 in Mississippi, and 19 from other states.

I will track the progress of Hurricane Rita as the storm progresses. At this time it is over the Florida Keys, undoubtedly wreaking havoc.