གཟའ་ཉི་མ། ༢༠༢༤/༠༥/༢༦

Post-Hurricane Recovery Efforts Taking Shape in Texas, Louisiana

One day after Hurricane Rita pummeled a huge swath of territory covering East Texas and Louisiana, the needs of the region are being assessed, and initial recovery efforts are moving forward. Only one death, in the state of Mississippi, has been directly blamed on the storm, and damage to the region's oil infrastructure appears limited.

Texas Governor Rick Perry is breathing a sigh of relief. Speaking on "Fox News Sunday," the governor said it does not appear Rita claimed any lives in his state after coming ashore with winds at 190-kilometers and hour.

"Assessments are still going on," Mr. Perry says. "The good news is that it appears there has been no loss of life [in Texas]. It is almost a miracle, a blessing for a storm this size. Of course, that is preliminary."

It could have been much worse. Weeks ago, Hurricane Katrina left hundreds of people dead as it obliterated coastal communities in Louisiana and Mississippi, and spawned massive flooding in New Orleans.

But Governor Perry said Rita was far from benign, and pleaded with Texas evacuees to resist the temptation to rush back to their homes.

"We have a lot of residential damage, obviously, and a lot of commercial damage," Mr. Perry says. "Electricity is the big issue right now. We are working double-overtime to try to find all the generators we can. The clean-up effort is just beginning. And we want to ask people [evacuees] to stay where they are. Do not be coming [back] to this area. It is still dangerous."

Harder hit were remote communities in southern Louisiana that had barely begun to recover from Hurricane Katrina when Rita arrived, bringing a second round of storm surges and heavy flooding. With water levels rising Saturday, emergency workers evacuated hundreds of Louisiana residents, some by helicopter. A grateful Vermillion Parish Sheriff, Michael Couvillon, spoke on NBC's "Today Show."

"It is unbelievable how much help we received," Mr. Couvillon says. "We have the Army, the National Guard, state police. We have volunteers coming in from all over."

In New Orleans, meanwhile, sections of levees already damaged by Katrina gave way again Friday, allowing torrents of water to wash into some sectors of the city already devastated by the previous hurricane.

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu told CNN's "Late Edition" program that her state has suffered two knockout blows.

"Both of these storms have just been devastating to all of Louisiana, and while the southern part [of the state] has been hit directly by the water and the wind and the collapse of many of our levee systems, all of Louisiana has been terribly hit," Ms. Landrieu says.

The recovery costs from Hurricane Rita are expected to be far less than the hundreds of billions of dollars estimated for Hurricane Katrina. Assessments are continuing, but initial reports indicate that damage to the U.S. petroleum industry inflicted by Rita is relatively light.

Since record-keeping began, it is virtually unheard of for two major hurricanes to strike the United States so close to each other, in terms of time and geography. And the danger of another storm remains, according to the director of the National Hurricane Center, Max Mayfield. Speaking on ABC's "This Week" program, Mr. Mayfield said two months remain in the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, and even more storms are likely to form in the weeks ahead.

"It would be very unreasonable to think that we will not have any more," Mr. Mayfield says. "The [hurricane] season goes until the end of November. The peak of the hurricane season goes until the end of October. So, we could easily have another handful of tropical storms."

And tropical storms can always develop into hurricanes, as did Rita and Katrina.