Gulf Coast Hit By Hurricane Gustav, Seven Deaths Reported in Louisiana

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Authorities are reporting seven deaths related to Hurricane Gustav. They include four people fleeing the storm who were killed in Georgia when their car struck a tree. A couple in their 70s died when a tree struck their relatives' home in Baton Rouge. Another woman died in an accident driving between Baton Rouge and New Orleans .

Before arriving in the U.S., Gustav was blamed for at least 94 deaths in the Caribbean. Gustav slammed into the heart of Louisiana's fishing and oil industries with 110 mile-an-hour winds today. It delivered only a glancing blow to New Orleans , three years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

There was damage elsewhere in Louisiana. A levee in the southeast part of the state is on the verge of collapse. As many as 300 homes in Plaquemines (PLAK'-uh-minz) Parish are threatened. Officials are scrambling to fortify the levee. At 8 p.m. Eastern time, Gustav had top sustained winds of 75 miles-an-hour. The National Hurricane Center says it's expected to weaken further during the next 24 hours.

More than a million utility customers are without power in the wake of Hurricane Gustav. And that number is continuing to grow. Entergy Corporation says nearly 750,000 of its customers are without power, almost all of them in Louisiana, where the company has 1.2 million customers. And the company says power failures are spreading.

It's the third greatest number of outages in Entergy's 95-year history, topped only by outrages during hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Smaller numbers of customers have lost power in the states east of Louisiana. The storm is pushing west toward Texas, where the wind and rain have been picking up. Cleco Corporation, which has about 275,000 customers in Louisiana, says 140,000 are without power and those outages were also spreading.

In response, Alabama Power is sending 200 contract employees to the coast to help. Dixie Electric in Alabama is sending 2 five men teams to Mississippi to help restore power.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)