Sun, Nov 11, 2018 - Page 5 News List

California wildfires kill at least nine

TRAPPED:Flames engulfed parts of a town home to 26,000 people, while blazes jumped over a highway, cutting portions of the main coastal north-south artery

AFP, PARADISE, California

A house burns as the Woolsey Fire sweeps through Malibu, California, on Friday.

Photo: AP

Nine people were declared dead and tens of thousands evacuated on Friday as fierce wildfires raged across California, with one rapidly spreading blaze threatening the famed resort of Malibu.

All of 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 the entire population of 26,000 was ordered to leave, officials said.

The fast-moving blaze, known as the “Camp Fire,” began on Thursday morning.

Fanned by strong winds, it has scorched 28,300 hectares and has not been contained, the California Fire Department said.

Two other fires broke out in southern California, one in Ventura County near Thousand Oaks.

“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.

Late on Friday, Butte County Sheriff Korey Honea updated the Camp Fire death toll.

“It’s my sad duty to confirm that we now have a total of nine fatalities,” he said, four more fatalities beyond the five reported earlier.

Details were limited and Honea did not release names of the victims.

“I don’t have all of the details because we have investigators out on the field attempting to get to those locations” where the casualties were reported, Honea told a news conference.

However, he did say that four people were found inside a vehicle in the Paradise area, while another was found nearby outside the vehicle.

Three more were found outside a residence and one inside a house.

Dozens of other people were reported missing.

Residents who managed to escape 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 in Paradise, officials said.

A photographer on the scene saw houses enveloped in flames, while others had already been reduced to ashes and cars burned to husks.

Authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders for more than 52,000 people in the scenic area in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, including some residents of Chico, population 93,000, near Paradise.

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

More than 2,200 firefighters were battling the blaze, backed up by helicopters and water tankers.

“The whole lower side of Paradise is totally engulfed in flames right now,” Kevin Winstead, a resident of nearby Magalia, told KIEM TV. “All of it is engulfed in flames right now.

“Not one home will be left standing,” he said. “I’m devastated.”

“We’re just hoping that our brand new home that we were hoping to move into tomorrow is not burned to the ground,” Winstead said. “We’re kind of all shaking right now.”

In southern California, authorities said about 105,000 people had been evacuated.

The Ventura County Fire Department said the “Woolsey Fire” had burned about 14,000 hectares, and evacuation orders were issued for about 88,000 homes in the county and neighboring Los Angeles County.

“It is critical that residents pay close attention to evacuation orders,” the Los Angeles County Fire Department said on Twitter. “This is a very dangerous wind-driven fire.”

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