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Authorities rush to protect New Orleans again -

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ELEANOR HALL: Darkness has fallen in the US city of New Orleans where authorities say they have
completed one of the most successful evacuations in US history.

National Guard troops are now patrolling what has become a ghost town enforcing a curfew and
bracing for inundation by Hurricane Gustav.

The hurricane, which is fiercer even than Hurricane Katrina, is expected to make landfall west of
New Orleans early tomorrow morning Australian time. And the tidal surge accompanying it is expected
to breach the city's levees as John Shovelan reports.

JOHN SHOVELAN: With the Gulf Coast only just feeling the effects of the outer edge of the massive
storm system - it's hardly the time for state, local and even federal officials to be patting each
other on the back - after all the hurricane is still hours away from making landfall.

But authorities are already feeling the satisfaction of a job well done. The reason - the
evacuation of the city of New Orleans ahead of Hurricane Gustav appears to have gone without a
hitch.

The Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal says 90 to 95 per cent of people in coastal areas and the
city of New Orleans have left.

BOBBY JINDAL: But as many as 95 per cent have evacuated. That will put the total at a little over
1.9-million people.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Governor Jindal says he's heard an estimate that only 10,000 people are left in the
city of New Orleans.

The city's Mayor Ray Nagin says this time is a far cry from the lawlessness and chaos that was the
hall mark of Hurricane Katrina.

RAY NAGIN: We know what we need to do. We've practiced it. We've got the resources and we're
implement it and everybody is appreciate.

It is just nice to see a plan come together.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Nothing has been left to chance compared with three years ago when the White House
released a picture of the President flying over the area in Air Force One while his vice-president
was fly fishing.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency director was blissfully unaware 80 per cent of New Orleans
was under water.

Images were flashed around the world of hundreds of people on roof tops - stranded pleading for
help - people living on bridges with deaths in hospitals and nursing homes because authorities
failed to act.

This time the President is in neighbouring Texas monitoring the response - his Secretary of
Homeland Security is in Louisiana and his director of FEMA has been in the area for days.

Every effort has been made to ensure there is no repeat.

FEMA director David Paulison says they can only wait now to see what track the hurricane takes.

DAVID PAULISON: I've told you before that we were going to be ready for this storm. I think we're
showing that we are ready for this storm. Again, we cannot, I can't stop the damage from happening.
We can't stop the storm from coming in. What we can do is be as ready as possible, making sure we
are ready, the States are ready and the local community is ready.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Among the unknowns are just how effective are the levees which protect the city of
New Orleans.

Local government officials are expecting some of the city to once again be under water because
Louisiana Senator David Vitters says the reconstruction is still incomplete.

DAVID VITTERS: That work is not scheduled to be complete until the 2011 hurricane season. It'll
only be 2011 when we have full, what we call, 100-year storm protection and so there are
vulnerabilities in the system.

JOHN SHOVELAN: The storm surge generated by Hurricane Gustav appears likely to overwhelm the levees
west of the city.

Forecasters predict the hurricane will cross the coast as a category three storm with sustained
winds of nearly 200 per hour.

John Shovelan, Washington.