North California fire: Death toll at 76, more than 1,000 missing
November 18, 2018 06:22 pm
The death toll from wildfires in Northern California has risen to 76, with thousands left homeless from the deadliest blaze to hit the US state in a century.
As hundreds of rescue workers sifted through the rubble in the affected areas, the remains of five more people were found on Saturday, including four in the decimated town of Paradise and one in nearby Concow.
Northern California’s Camp Fire has destroyed nearly 10,000 homes and torched 233 square miles (603 square kilometres). It is 55 percent contained.
US President Donald Trump toured the area as nearly 1,300 people still remain unaccounted for more than a week after the fire sparked in Butte County, Sheriff Kory Honea announced on Saturday night.
Trump also visited Southern California, where firefighters were making progress on a wildfire that tore through communities west of Los Angeles from Thousand Oaks to Malibu, killing three people.
“We’ve never seen anything like this in California, we’ve never seen anything like this yet. It’s like total devastation,” Trump said as he stood amid the ruins of Paradise, which has a population of about 26,000.
He met state officials, who have been critical of him, and pledged federal assistance for Californians.
In Paradise, at a makeshift camp, shell-shocked families took stock of their losses.
Amy Bravo-Robertson and her family were among the 50,000 who were forced to flee their homes as the wildfires closed in around them. Her trailer home and place of employment were destroyed.
“A million things are going through my head. We are just trying to figure out where we are going and what we are doing,” she told Al Jazeera.
Rain was forecast for midweek, which could help firefighters but also complicate the search for remains.
“The efforts are still very active,” said Daniel Ramey, a Cal Fire officer. “We also have units like search and rescue, and the National Guard is assisting us with the recovery.”
Trump, downplaying the role of a changing climate in fuelling the fires, said the management and maintenance of forest lands will be the focus moving forward and announced $500m for that effort in the Farm Bill.
“I want a great climate,” he said. “We’re going to have that and we’re going to have forests that are very safe because we can’t go through this every year.”
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea expressed hope that Trump’s visit would help with recovery, saying the tour by the Republican president and California’s Democratic leaders “signals a spirit of cooperation here that ultimately benefit this community and get us on a path toward recovery.”
Honea pleaded with fire evacuees on Saturday to review the list of those reported as unreachable by family and friends and call if they had been found safe.
Source: Al Jazeera