Nine die in Cal­i­for­nia wild­fires, hun­dreds of thou­sands forced to flee

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Nine peo­ple were killed and hun­dreds of thou­sands or­dered to evac­u­ate as wild­fires raged Satur­day across Cal­i­for­nia, with one rapidly spread­ing blaze threat­en­ing the re­sort of Mal­ibu, home to Hol­ly­wood stars.

The fa­tal­i­ties were re­ported in a mas­sive late-sea­son in­ferno in the town of Par­adise, in Butte County north of the state cap­i­tal Sacra­mento, where some 6,700 struc­tures went up in flames – of­fi­cially be­com­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s most de­struc­tive fire on record, AFP wrote.

The fast-mov­ing blaze, which au­thor­i­ties have named the “Camp Fire”, broke out Thurs­day morn­ing. Fanned by strong winds, it has scorched 90,000 acres (36,400 hectares) and is only five per­cent con­tained, the Cal­i­for­nia Fire De­part­ment (Cal Fire) said late Fri­day.

Other large fires raged in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia, in­clud­ing one just north of Los An­ge­les and an­other in Ven­tura County near Thou­sand Oaks, where a Ma­rine Corps vet­eran shot dead 12 peo­ple in a coun­try mu­sic bar on Wed­nes­day night.

“The mag­ni­tude of de­struc­tion we have seen is re­ally un­be­liev­able and heart­break­ing and our hearts go to every­body who has been af­fected by this,” said Mark Ghi­lar­ducci, the di­rec­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia Gover­nor’s Of­fice of Emer­gency Ser­vices.

Gover­nor-elect Gavin New­som de­clared a state of emer­gency to pro­vide as­sis­tance to the fire-hit ar­eas.

Butte County Sher­iff Korey Honea said late Fri­day it was his “sad duty” to up­date the Camp Fire death toll to nine.

“I don’t have all of the de­tails be­cause we have in­ves­ti­ga­tors out on the field” try­ing to reach the lo­ca­tions where ca­su­al­ties were re­ported, Honea told re­porters.

But he did say that four peo­ple were found in­side a ve­hi­cle in the Par­adise area, while an­other was found nearby. Three more were found out­side a res­i­dence, and one in­side a house. Of­fi­cials ear­lier said that five peo­ple had died in ve­hi­cles over­come by the fire.

Dozens of other peo­ple were re­ported miss­ing.

Res­i­dents who es­caped Par­adise posted har­row­ing videos to so­cial me­dia as they drove through tun­nels of swirling smoke and or­ange flames to out­run the wild­fire.

The flames de­stroyed hun­dreds of homes, a hos­pi­tal, a gas sta­tion, sev­eral restau­rants and nu­mer­ous ve­hi­cles, of­fi­cials said.

Manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­ders were is­sued for more than 52,000 peo­ple in the scenic area in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada moun­tains.

Cal­i­for­nia has en­dured ab­nor­mally dry weather for years. Much of the south, in­clud­ing the Los An­ge­les area, is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing drought con­di­tions ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial data.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump showed no sym­pa­thy for the fa­mously lib­eral state. “There is no rea­son for th­ese mas­sive, deadly and costly for­est fires in Cal­i­for­nia ex­cept that for­est man­age­ment is so poor,” Trump tweeted on Satur­day.

“Bil­lions of dol­lars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all be­cause of gross mis­man­age­ment of the forests. Rem­edy now, or no more Fed pay­ments!” Turkey has given record­ings re­lated to the killing of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi to Saudi Ara­bia, the United States, Ger­many, France and Bri­tain, Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan said on Satur­day.

Turk­ish sources have said pre­vi­ously that au­thor­i­ties have an au­dio record­ing pur­port­edly doc­u­ment­ing the mur­der.

“We gave the tapes. We gave them to Saudi Ara­bia, to the United States, Ger­mans, French and British, all of them. They have lis­tened to all the con­ver­sa­tions in them. They know,” Er­do­gan said, Reuters re­ported.

Khashoggi, a Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist crit­i­cal of the Saudi gov­ern­ment and its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, dis­ap­peared at the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul on Oct. 2.

Saudi of­fi­cials said ini­tially that Khashoggi had left the con­sulate, later say­ing he died in an un­planned “rogue op­er­a­tion”. The king­dom’s pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor, Saud al-mo­jeb, has since said he was killed in a pre­med­i­tated at­tack.

Speak­ing ahead of his de­par­ture for France to at­tend com­mem­o­ra­tions to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War One, Er­do­gan called on Saudi Ara­bia to iden­tify the killer from among a 15man team that ar­rived in Turkey some days be­fore Khashoggi’s killing.

“There’s no need to dis­tort this is­sue, they know for cer­tain that the killer, or the killers, is among th­ese 15 peo­ple. Saudi Ara­bia’s gov­ern­ment can dis­close this by mak­ing th­ese 15 peo­ple talk,” Er­do­gan said.

Er­do­gan also ac­cused Mo­jeb – who vis­ited Is­tan­bul to dis­cuss the in­ves­ti­ga­tion with his Turk­ish coun­ter­part and make in­spec­tions in the Is­tan­bul con­sulate – of re­fus­ing to co­op­er­ate, in turn de­lay­ing the in­quiry.

Fol­low­ing a meet­ing on Satur­day in Paris, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and French leader Em­manuel Macron agreed that the Saudi au­thor­i­ties needed to shed full light on Khashoggi’s mur­der, a French pres­i­dency source said.

They also agreed that the mat­ter should not be al­lowed to cause fur­ther desta­bi­liza­tion in the Mid­dle East and that it could cre­ate an op­por­tu­nity to find a po­lit­i­cal res­o­lu­tion to the war in Ye­men, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial.

AFP

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