Hurricane Gustav strengthened into a dangerous storm Saturday, and as city officials started evacuation plans, some residents weren't waiting to be told to leave.
Cars packed with clothes, boxes and pet carriers drove north among heavy traffic on Interstate 55, a major route out of the city. Gas stations around the city hummed. And nursing homes and hospitals began sending patients farther inland.
I'm getting out of here. I can't take another hurricane," said Ramona Summers, 59, whose house flooded during Katrina. She hurried to help friends gather their belongings. Her car was already packed for Gonzales, nearly 60 miles away to the west of New Orleans.
Gustav swelled into a major hurricane south of Cuba and could strike the U.S. coast anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to Texas by Tuesday, but forecasters said there is a better-than-even chance that New Orleans will get slammed by at least tropical-storm-force winds. That raised the likelihood people will have to flee, and the city suggested a full-scale evacuation call could come as soon as Sunday.
An airstrike by Pakistani fighter jets killed more than 30 Taliban fighters, including an alleged high-ranking Taliban commander, a government spokesman said Saturday.
The military called in the fighter jets Friday to support Pakistani army ground troops in the violence-plagued northwest after they were caught in a clash with Taliban fighters, the spokesman said.
The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan said Saturday that coalition airstrikes had killed several militants in an Afghan province north of the capital, Kabul.
It happened Friday in Kapisa province, when coalition forces tried to search a compound for a Taliban commander suspected of smuggling weapons into Afghanistan and of conducting attacks on coalition and NATO forces with improvised explosive devices, the coalition said.
Coalition forces came under heavy fire from AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades and told the militants to come out peacefully.
"Several women and children exited the compound and were moved to a safe area at which time coalition forces again came under AK-47 and RPG fire," a coalition statement said. "Coalition forces responded with precision airstrikes, killing several militants."
The Georgian government broke off diplomatic relations with Russia on Friday and Russia responded by doing the same.
While the move was expected in the wake of the war this month, it was a significant political ripple in post-Soviet politics. Never before has Russia severed formal diplomatic ties with any of the other 14 republics that became independent states in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The countries will retain consular offices in each other’s territories, handling such matters as issuing passports and assisting their citizens with legal affairs, but the political ties will now be handled through intermediaries, a spokeswoman for Georgia’s Foreign Ministry said.
Georgia is now in talks with several countries as possible candidates to represent Georgia in Moscow, the ministry spokeswoman said, in the way, for example, that the Swiss Embassy in Tehran represents American interests in Iran, a country with which the United States has no diplomatic relations.
The Georgian Parliament passed a law on Thursday instructing the government to sever ties with Russia as one of seven points of protest to the Russian Army’s occupation of two separatist regions and a security zone around them, and Russian government recognition of the two regions as independent countries.
The law does not prohibit Russian and Georgian diplomats from meeting on the territory of third countries.