Guy Carpenter, a risk and reinsurance intermediary, notes in arecent report that Hurricane Rita is located approximately 175miles west of Key West in Florida and packs sustained winds ofaround 120 miles per hour, according to the National HurricaneCenter. The storm is predicted to track west and strengthen overthe next 24 hours. Hurricane-force winds extend 45 miles from thecentre of the storm, while tropical storm-force winds extend 140miles.

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All hurricane warnings in Florida have been discontinued afterthe storm moved away from the state. Some 80,000 residents in theFlorida Keys were urged to evacuate their homes as Rita passedbetween the island chain and the northern coast of Cuba. Around230,000 people were evacuated in Cuba. However, no major damage hasbeen reported in either country. Although tens of thousands ofhouseholds lost power in northern Cuba and South Florida and therewere reports of localized flooding and wind damage, officials saidthe storm caused minimal damage.

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Rita is currently moving through the Gulf of Mexico. Thehurricane strengthened to a category 4 storm this morning and isheading towards the Texas coast. The long-term forecast has Ritacoming ashore near Galveston in Texas on Saturday morning, althoughthe NHC has not ruled out possible landfall in Louisiana ornorthern Mexico.

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Several oil companies have halted operations and evacuated rigsin the Gulf of Mexico as Rita moves toward major energy productionareas. Authorities along the US Gulf Coast are preparing for thearrival of Rita. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)announced it has aircraft and buses available to evacuate residentsin areas threatened by the hurricane.

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A state of emergency has been declared in Texas and Louisiana,and mandatory evacuations orders have been issued. Texas GovernorRick Perry advised residents in the state's coastal regions tobegin plans for evacuation, while Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas inGalveston issued a state of emergency. In Louisiana, New Orleans ison high alert as the Army Corps of Engineers continue to repair thecity's weakened levee system after Hurricane Katrina devastated theregion in late August. The Army Corps of Engineers said the leveesin New Orleans can currently only handle up to 6 inches of rain anda storm surge of 10 to 12 feet.

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Sources: National Hurricane Center, Associated Press, BBC News,CNN News, Reuters News, Agence France Presse, The Fort-WorthStar-Telegram

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This report was reprinted with written permission from GuyCarpenter. For more CAT-i reports and further information on theservice, please click http://www.guycarp.com.

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