Hurricane Ike causes up to $18bn damage in Texas

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The Independent US

Rescuers made their way through piles of debris and water-filled streets in Texas seaside towns yesterday after Hurricane Ike flooded hundreds of miles of US coastline, cut power to millions and pummelled the oil hub of Houston.

A weakened Ike pushed northward after slamming into the Texas coast as a giant category 2 hurricane on Saturday, leaving extensive devastation in its wake.

Officials have barely begun to assess the damage, which early estimates put in the billions of dollars. No one was reported to have been killed.

Ike, which affected a quarter of US crude oil production and refining capacity, swamped the island city of Galveston and hammered Houston, the fourth most populous US city.

The sea wall protecting the coastal barrier island of Galveston, where Ike crashed ashore, was piled high with the detritus of wrecked buildings, boats and other debris.

Wreckage and floodwaters have hampered rescuers' attempts to search Galveston, where about 10,000 people ignored a mandatory evacuation order. Heavy rains falling across Houston yesterday threatened more flooding, which could further impede search and rescue efforts.

In Houston, 50 miles (85km) inland, Ike shattered the windows of skyscrapers, showering streets with glass and debris, tore apart bus shelters and ripped metal sheets off buildings.

Officials extended a 9pm to 6am curfew for Houston, citing lack of electricity and downed power lines. Around 4.5 million people face weeks without power. Thirty people have been arrested for looting, police confirmed.

"This hurricane has caused devastation across areas of Texas and Louisiana," David Paulison, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said.

A computer-model estimate of damage facing insurers says Ike could lead to claims of between $8bn (£4bn) to $18bn. President George Bush is due to visit Texas tomorrow.

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