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