COPY-Major developments on Hurricane Rita, aftermath of Katrina

Major developments in the progress of Hurricane Rita and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

_ Rita's Category Five winds increased to 175 miles-an-hour yesterday as the storm headed across the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasters predict a Saturday landfall somewhere along the Texas Gulf Coast between Galveston and Corpus Christi. If Rita turns just slightly, the storm could deal a devastating glancing blow to New Orleans._ About one-point-three (m) million people were ordered to evacuate the Galveston-Houston-Corpus Christi area along with about 20-thousand more on the Louisiana coast. Hundreds of buses were sent to evacuate the poor; hospital and nursing home patients also were moved out._ Eager to avoid the public pounding he got for his response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush pledged to be "ready for the worst."_ An estimated 319-thousand National Guard troops nationwide are available to respond to Rita if needed. Several amphibious assault ships are stationed offshore to assist relief efforts in Rita's wake._ Forty-five truckloads of water, 45 truckloads of ice and eight truckloads of ready-to-eat meals are ready to respond to Rita. Nine Search and Rescue Task Forces and nine Disaster Medical Assistance Teams have been mobilized._ Crude-oil prices rose more than a dollar a barrel as oil rigs were evacuated in the Gulf of Mexico, less than a month after Katrina tore through the same region. Oil companies began closing refineries, including two of the largest around Houston._ Louisiana's death toll from Katrina rose to 799, pushing the total across the Gulf Coast to one-thousand, 36._ New Orleans is only about 10 percent flooded, down from 80 percent, with just isolated ponds left in sections of the city._ Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco asked President Bush to appoint an independent commission to investigate the preparations for and response to Katrina -- adding her voice to a chorus of Democrats calling for an independent investigation._ Mayor Ray Nagin says that as New Orleans recovers in the coming year, it may be able to handle only a little more than half the 480-thousand people it held before the storm.

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