Largest wildfire on record in California finally contained

Fire burns canyons and ridges above Bella Vista Drive near Romero Canyon as the fight to contain a wildfire continues in Montecito, California (AP)
Updated 13 January 2018
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Largest wildfire on record in California finally contained

CALIFORNIA: The largest wildfire on record in California was declared contained on Friday, days after mud on the coastal mountain slopes it scorched crashed down on homes during a storm, killing at least 18 people.
The Thomas fire was declared 100 percent surrounded after ravaging Ventura and Santa Barbara counties northwest of Los Angeles for more than a month. A cause has not yet been determined.
Some areas of Los Padres National Forest remain closed to the public until authorities determine it is safe to enter.
The blaze began on Dec. 4 and fierce winds drove the flames through tinder-dry brush, chaparral and trees. The fire blackened 440 square miles (1,140.76 square kilometers) — an area nearly as large as Los Angeles.
Flames whipped through foothill communities and forest wilderness. More than 1,000 buildings, including many homes, were incinerated and thousands of people were forced to flee.
Evacuations were called for Montecito as flames topped ridges above the wealthy enclave that was hit by waves of mud on Tuesday.
Two people were killed in the fire. Cory Iverson, a 32-year-old state firefighter, died of burns and smoke inhalation while working in steep country above Fillmore.
A preliminary state fire report said Iverson was laying hose line near a firebreak cut by bulldozers when he became surrounded by spot fires that exploded around him and cut off his retreat.
Four other members of his team managed to escape.
Some Montecito families had only recently returned home when another evacuation call went out on Monday.
Forecasters warned that the approaching storm could unleash flooding and mudslides because fire-scorched areas had lost vegetation that stabilizes soil.
Cascades of mud, boulders, trees and other debris inundated the community, destroying at least 100 homes.


"We are happy to have our son back"

Updated 18 December 2018
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"We are happy to have our son back"

  • Parents of Indian national released from Peshawar jail rejoice
  • Detained for alleged espionage, Ansari had reportedly entered Pakistan from Kabul to meet a girl he had befriended online

NEW DELHI: After spending six years in a Pakistani jail on charges of alleged espionage, Indian national Hamid Ansari finally saw the light of day after being released by Islamabad on Tuesday.

In search of a better livelihood, Ansari had reportedly left his hometown of Mumbai in India to look for a job in Afghanistan.

In 2012, however, he allegedly entered Kohat, in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, to meet a girl he had befriended on social media.

Pakistan, however, said that Ansari, an engineer, was an Indian spy who had illegally entered the country while accusing him of being involved in anti-state crimes and forgery, prior to sentencing him to six years in jail.

Since 2015, Ansari had been lodged in a jail in Peshawar where he ended his prison term last week.

“We are happy that we'd be able to see our son again,” an emotional Nehal Ahmad Ansari, his father, told Arab News.

His mother, Fauzia Ansari, added that Ansari's release was "an end of a painful period in our life".

Speaking to reporters, she said: "It’s a new birth for Hamid. He will begin his new life. We will support him for his rehabilitation, good health and better future.”

Nehal, on his part, thanked the government of India and Pakistan "for every effort" made in helping repatriate his son.

Ansari's entire family, along with a large number of peace activists, were present at the Wagah border to receive him. 

Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs expressed “great relief, especially for the family members, that six years of incarceration of the Indian civilian in Pakistan jail is coming to an end.”

In a press statement released on Monday, Kumar asked “Pakistan to take action to also end the misery of other Indian nationals and fishermen whose nationality has been confirmed and who have completed their sentences, but continue to languish in Pakistan jails.”