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IN THE NEWS - Wilma Adds to the Damage of a Record Hurricane Season

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I'm Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

People in the American state of Florida are trying to recover from the twenty-first powerful storm to develop in the Atlantic Ocean this year.

The hurricane called Wilma hit the southeastern state on Monday. At least twenty-seven people died. Officials say Wilma also caused at least twelve deaths in Haiti, four in Mexico and one in Jamaica.

About six million people in South Florida lost electric power as a result of the storm. Many remain without electricity. Officials say it could take at least until late November to get the power situation back to normal.

More than four thousand people in the southern part of the state have not been able to return to their homes.

Key West, Florida
Key West, Florida

Experts say the storm damage to Florida could total about ten thousand million dollars. That would make it one of the ten most costly storms in United States history.

But Wilma was only the latest in a series of damaging storms to hit the American South in the past few months. Hurricane Katrina in August was one of the worst natural disasters in American history. It killed more than one thousand people. Government officials estimate that it caused at least one hundred twenty-five thousand million dollars in damage.

Floodwalls around the city of New Orleans failed. The flooding that resulted caused destruction. Officials in the city are now trying to get people who left to return. Mayor Ray Nagin says the city's population will be reduced to nearly half its number from before the storm. As many as two hundred fifty thousand houses still cannot be lived in, and many areas still lack basic services.

Some businesses in the city have re-opened. But city officials say they have had to travel outside Louisiana to urge many people to return. They say their biggest problem is providing places for people to live.

In September, Hurricane Rita damaged the coasts of Louisiana and Texas. The loss of life and damage estimates were much lower than for earlier storms. Officials say that was because people learned from what had happened to New Orleans and left the area before the storm hit.

But the hurricane season is not yet over. The official period continues until the end of November. The National Hurricane Center says this is the busiest Atlantic season on record. After Wilma, weather experts did not have any more storm names left for the season. So they named the next two tropical storms with letters of the Greek alphabet: Alpha and Beta.

Weather experts say the number of storms began to rise in about nineteen ninety-five. They say the increase in the number of hurricanes is a result of an increase in water temperatures. The director of the hurricane center told Congress earlier this year that this increased storm activity could continue for another ten years.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Nancy Steinbach. Our reports are on the Web at www.unsv.com. I'm Steve Ember.

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