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Most major stores in Gulf Coast region reopen

/ Source: The Associated Press

Retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Sunday that most of their stores forced to close because of Hurricane Rita have reopened and are restocking their shelves as they wait for residents to return home.

Wal-Mart, which closed 155 facilities Saturday morning, reopened all but 52 by Sunday, according to Linda Blakely, a company spokeswoman.

Blakely said the store that sustained the most damage was a Sam’s Club in Lake Charles, La., an area that was one of the hardest hit by Rita, which made landfall early Saturday morning.

But she added, “The damage reports are still coming in.”

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart’s discount rival Target Corp. only has five stores still closed in the Gulf Coast region, including one in Metarie, La., that hasn’t been open since Hurricane Katrina hit Aug. 29. The discounter had closed 32 stores Saturday morning.

“We were able to open within 24 hours,” said Carolyn Brookter, a company spokeswoman.

Home Depot Inc., the nation’s largest home improvement retailer, said only five of the 46 stores — 41 in the Houston market — that were shuttered Saturday morning remained closed. The stores that were closed were in areas hardest hit by Rita, including Beaumont and Orange, Texas, as well as Lake Charles, La., said Don Harrison, a company spokesman.

Harrison said Home Depot has dispatched over 100 trucks to bring additional supplies to stores throughout the night. The retailer also said employees from Brownsville, and Austin, Texas, were traveling to Houston to help out at stores in that area.

“There are not a lot of customers in the stores,” Harrison said, but he added, “We want to be in stock as soon as possible when the population gets back into town.”