Paradise burns to the ground
A fast-moving wildfire has devastated a Northern California town of 26,000 people, with authorities unsure of the casualties as they struggled to contain 50m-high flames.
Driven by strong winds and dry conditions, the blaze roared through the town of Paradise, about 240km north-east of San Francisco, forcing the population to flee in a chaotic mass evacuation.
Fire ripped through residential areas and flames leapt from hospitals and schools, according to a witness who saw a car dealership go up in flames on a street clogged with burnt cars.
“The town is devastated, everything is destroyed,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott Maclean, said. “There’s nothing much left standing.”
The town of Chico, population 93,000, could be next as flames were driven westward by 56km/h winds, Butte County Fire Chief Darren Read said.
“We have received reports of some fatalities but they have not yet been verified,” he said.