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Andrew weakens as it moves inland

FRANKLIN (AFP) - Hurricane Andrew slammed ashore in Louisiana yesterday, then weakened as it headed into the heart of the state's Cajun country, although it was still packing winds of 110mph. There were no immediate reports of deaths in Louisiana from the hurricane, which has been blamed for 15 deaths in Florida and one in the Bahamas.

President George Bush said the damage done by Andrew 'goes beyond anything we have known in recent years' and 'threatens to overwhelm the resources' of both public and private institutions. He announced an immediate dollars 10m ( pounds 5m) in federal funds to help with the clean-up operation in Florida, where Andrew left damage of up to dollars 20bn. He declared Louisiana a disaster area.

Forecasters said the hurricane would lose its force as it pushed through the bayous and marshes south of Baton Rouge. 'It's still a powerful storm . . . but loss of energy from the warm Gulf waters is going to kill this thing. It will die a slow and painful death,' said Roger Edwards, of the National Hurricane Center.

Andrew, the costliest hurricane to hit the US mainland, skirted Louisiana's coastal marshlands late on Tuesday and made landfall near Morgan City, 80 miles from New Orleans. The hurricane spawned a tornado which tore through the New Orleans suburb of LaPlace, destroying several homes and leaving 30 people injured, some of them seriously, local authorities said. 'All I heard was a loud, loud noise; I turned to go into the house and it picked me up and . . . rolled me across the ground, almost to the street,' said Lucille Perilloux, 46, adding that all that was left of her home were splinters.

As the storm pushed through Franklin, 75 miles from New Orleans, it devastated sugar- cane crops and forecasters warned of flash- floods.

In southern Florida on Monday the hurricane cut a 40-mile-wide swathe south of Miami, leaving 50,000 people homeless and causing billions of dollars of damage to property. In Dade County yesterday rescue crews were sifting through the wreckage of a shopping centre with dogs trained to sniff out bodies. The hurricane sheared off rooftops, uprooted trees and tossed vehicles about like toys. The wind ripped the paint off houses. An estimated 1.3 million homes were left without electricity, although power was being restored gradually. About 2,300 National Guardsmen patrolled storm-hit areas, chasing looters from damaged stores.