California wildfires kill dozens, force thousands to flee | News | DW | 11.11.2018
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California wildfires kill dozens, force thousands to flee

Deadly wildfires continue to rage in northern and southern California as the death toll steadily climbed to 29. Authorities now say more than 228 people are missing.

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Wildfires devastate Paradise, California

Fierce wildfires have killed at least 29 people in California, authorities said on Sunday, as firefighters continued to battle raging blazes at both ends of drought-stricken state. 

In northern California, rescue teams extended the search for bodies after an inferno swept across the town of Paradise and destroyed more than 6,700 homes and businesses, making it the state's most destructive fire in at least a century.

The blaze, known as the Camp Fire, began on Thursday and grew rapidly, wiping out much of Paradise, home to some 30,000 residents. So far it has incinerated 111,000 acres (45,000 hectares) and is 25 percent contained, Cal Fire said. 

There are 228 people are still missing, Butte County Sheriff Cory Honea said on Sunday night, raising the number unaccounted for by more than a hundred from the previous day. 

People searched for missing family and friends at evacuation centers, police stations and hospitals in the hope that loved ones had lost cell phones or other ways to make contact.  

Read more: Climate change sets the world on fire

California wildfires (Getty Images/J. Sullivan)

Rescue crews continue to find bodies in the smouldering ruins of Paradise

Fire threatens Malibu

Two wildfires also continued to wreak havoc in southern California, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee. Two people have been reported killed. 

Evacuation orders included the entire town of Malibu, which is home to 13,000 residents. Some of Hollywood's biggest stars were among the evacuees.

Read more: Yes, climate change fuels forest fires — but that's not the only factor

"I am thinking so deeply for everyone who is suffering today from these abominable fires and grieving the loss of their homes or loved ones," Lady Gaga said in a tweet.

The blaze also threatened parts of the nearby town of Thousand Oaks, which saw a gun attack earlier this week at a dance bar in which 12 people were killed.

 

Trump chimes in

More than 8,000 firefighters are battling wildfires in the state raging across some 400 square miles (1,040 square kilometers). 

California governor Jerry Brown said he made a formal request to the federal government for a "major disaster declaration," which can be made by the president. 

President Donald Trump, however, has threatened to suspend federal assistance to California, accusing the state of failing to prevent the fires.

"There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor," Trump said in a tweet. "Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests."

The Pasadena California Firefighters Association responded to the president on Twitter. 

"Mr. President, with all due respect, you are wrong. The fires in So. Cal are urban interface fires and have NOTHING to do with forest management. Come to SoCal and learn the facts & help the victims," Pasadena Firefighters Association chief Scott Austin wrote. 

Over the past decade, California has witnessed massive wildfires wreak havoc across the western state. Studies have said wildfires often start due to extremely dry conditions, such as droughts that are spurred by climate change.

Read more: Trump's environmental fallacies on Twitter

cw, ls, ap/amp (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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