September 22, 2005

Louisiana governor urges coastal evacuation

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - Louisiana Gov. Kathleen
Blanco urged residents of coastal communities to evacuate on
Thursday as weather reports indicate Hurricane Rita will come
closer to the state than previously thought.

"Southwest Louisiana is now in danger... we feel that it is
very important that everyone leave now," said Blanco, who
estimate the number of people in the communities she wants
emptied at between 300,000 and 500,000

The eye of Rita is expected to hit Texas, but forecasts
indicate the storm will come close enough to Louisiana to
produce heavy winds and rain and a large storm surge in coastal
communities. A hurricane warning extended across much of the
Texas coast into Morgan City, Louisiana, about 85 miles (137
km) southwest of New Orleans.

"As we asked southeast Louisiana to evacuate in advance of
Katrina, and probably one million people or more evacuated
safely, we are asking the same southwest Louisiana," Blanco

New Orleans, which was flooded by Hurricane Katrina, is
southeastern Louisiana, but officials are also worried that the
recently-repaired levees will not be able to able to withstand
another bout of heavy rain.

Officials urged Louisiana residents in the coastal
communities to go north, but not to the capital of Baton Rouge
that is already crowded with people displaced by Katrina and
emergency crews.

Texas residents who had been trying to escape the storm by
driving east into Louisiana were also asked to change direction
and go north.

Blanco said she is asking the federal governments to send
15,000 additional troops to help in search and rescue
operations, just as the military did after Katrina that hit the
state Aug 29.