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Hurricane Katrina rocks New Orleans
Updated: 2005-08-30 07:29

NEW ORLEANS - Hurricane Katrina ripped into the U.S. Gulf Coast on Monday, battering the historic jazz city New Orleans, swamping resort towns and lowlands with a crushing surge of seawater and stranding people on rooftops, Reuters reported.

New Orleans, a bowl-shaped city that sits below sea level and has long feared catastrophic damage from a massive hurricane, took a powerful blow from Katrina's 135 mph (216 kph) winds when the storm came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico and roared along the coast into Mississippi and Alabama.

Cars sit idle on flooded streets in downtown New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina came ashore on Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. (AP
Cars sit idle on flooded streets in downtown New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina came ashore on Monday, Aug. 29, 2005. [AP]

At least two oil rigs were adrift in the Gulf of Mexico, where Katrina raged through offshore fields as one of the strongest hurricanes on record. Fearing the worst from the 175 mph (280 kph) winds, oil companies shut down rigs and closed refineries along the coast, sending oil futures higher.

Katrina could become the most expensive storm in U.S. history, costing insurers up to $26 billion, risk analysts said.

In the city known as the birthplace of jazz, the storm shattered high-rise windows, littered the streets of the historic French Quarter with debris and tore through the roof of the Superdome football stadium, where some 10,000 people had taken shelter when authorities ordered New Orleans evacuated.

But a late turn to the east may have spared the city the worst as its levee system appeared to be holding off the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. Officials said a breach occurred in nearby St. Bernard Parish, where Katrina's eye passed and extensive damage was expected.
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