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Bush Declares Major Disaster in Texas After Hurricane Ike

U.S. President George Bush has declared a major disaster in Texas, after Hurricane Ike swept through the region, flooding homes and businesses and knocking out power to millions in and around Houston -- the nation's fourth-largest city.

The president Saturday ordered federal aid to help local recovery efforts.

Ike weakened into a tropical storm as it moved inland to the north and east. Texas Governor Rick Perry said the worst case scenario did not occur.

But he said there is still a lot of damage, especially in Galveston, which he said "bore the brunt of the storm." Damage to the Gulf of Mexico coast city includes more than a half a meter of flooding in a university hospital.

Hurricane Ike left more than 4 million people without power from Galveston to Houston. Officials say it may take weeks to completely restore electricity.

A search and rescue operation is underway in the hardest hit areas. Governor Perry says it is the largest rescue effort in Texas history.

At least two deaths are attributed to the storm.

Authorities say they are particularly concerned about thousands of people who defied evacuation orders in Galveston and the surrounding area, where the storm first made landfall.

Large sections of Galveston were left underwater from massive flooding. Winds of more than 175 kilometers per hour knocked out power lines, and spawned fires officials had to let burn.

Mr. Bush announced his administration extended environmental waivers on imported gasoline, to offset the disruption of U.S. fuel facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gasoline prices have gone up across the country because of concerns about possible supply shortages.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.