August 31st, 2008 09:05 EST
Gustav enters Gulf of Mexico
Powerful Hurricane Gustav is headed toward the U.S. Gulf coast after hitting western Cuba, where it caused considerable destruction, but no deaths.
It has weakened since crossing Cuba, but is expected to strengthen as it travels across the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The U.S. Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning early Sunday, meaning hurricane conditions are expected by early Monday along parts of the coast, including the city of New Orleans.
The hurricane center says Gustav`s winds have decreased to just over 200 kilometers per hour after striking Cuba with winds of 240 kilometers per hour.
Forecasters say Gustav will remain a major hurricane until landfall, likely to hit somewhere near New Orleans, which was devastated three years ago by Hurricane Katrina.
More than 1,400 people were killed by Katrina in the state of Louisiana. Several hundred of those victims were in New Orleans.
The city is under a mandatory evacuation order today, Sunday.
Cuban state media say Gustav caused widespread damage Saturday, but no reported deaths after some 250,000 people were evacuated from the hard-hit region.
Cuban officials said the hurricane devastated plantations, uprooted trees, destroyed buildings and washed boats ashore. However, Cuba`s key cash crop - tobacco - had been moved into warehouses to protect it from damage.
Gustav claimed at least 80 lives in Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic in recent days.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, are traveling to Mississippi Sunday to check on people getting ready for the hurricane.
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama spoke by phone Saturday with officials in Louisiana.
The U.S. Gulf coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas have started evacuating coastal residents.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.