Toll 23 in ‘cat­a­strophic’ Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires

The Hitavada - - WORLD -

MORE than 200 fire en­gines and fire-fight­ing crews from around the coun­try were be­ing rushed to Cal­i­for­nia to help bat­tle in­fer­nos which have left at least 23 peo­ple dead and thou­sands home­less.

“This is a se­ri­ous, crit­i­cal, cat­a­strophic event,” Cal­i­for­nia fire chief Ken Pim­lott told re­porters. “We’re not go­ing to be out of the woods for a great num­ber of days to come.” Pim­lott said that af­ter a respite on Tues­day winds kicked up again on Wed­nes­day and the winds and dry con­di­tions were ham­per­ing ef­forts to con­tain the blazes. “We are still im­pacted by five years of drought,” the di­rec­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion (Cal Fire) said.

“Th­ese fires were driven by the crit­i­cally dry fuel bed,” he added. “We are lit­er­ally look­ing at ex­plo­sive veg­e­ta­tion.”

Pim­lott said the death toll from the fires, among the dead­li­est ever in Cal­i­for­nia, could be ex­pected to go up fur­ther.

Thir­teen of the deaths have oc­curred in Sonoma County, a wine-pro­duc­ing re­gion which has been par­tic­u­larly hard hit, while six peo­ple have died in Men­do­cino County. There have been two deaths in Napa County and two in Yuba County.

En­tire neigh­bour­hoods in Santa Rosa, a city of 175,000 which is the county seat of Sonoma County, have been re­duced to ashes. Thou­sands of peo­ple have been left home­less and 25,000 peo­ple have evac­u­ated their homes in Sonoma County alone, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials.

More than 3,500 homes and busi­nesses have been de­stroyed in­clud­ing sev­eral winer­ies in Sonoma and Napa coun­ties, the heart of the state’s wine pro­duc­tion.

Six hun­dred peo­ple have been re­ported miss­ing in Sonoma County, but more than half of them have been lo­cated, Sher­iff Robert Gior­dano told re­porters.

“There’s still 285 on our miss­ing list that we’re look­ing for,” he said.

(AP/PTI)

Burned out homes are seen in the Cof­fey Park area on Wed­nes­day, in Santa Rosa, Cal­i­for­nia, US. Wild­fires whipped by pow­er­ful winds swept through North­ern Cal­i­for­nia as homes burned.

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