California fire ‘tornado’ kills 2 firefighters, thousands flee

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A blackened landscape is shown from wildfire damage near Keswick, California, US, July 27, 2018. (REUTERS)
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A burned down car sit at a property under a deep orange sky during the Carr fire near Redding, California on July 27, 2018. (AFP)
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A power pole leans over a burned property as the sky turns a deep orange during the Carr fire near Redding, California on July 27, 2018. (AFP)
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A view of cars that were destroyed by the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. (AFP)
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Flames tower above a road during the Carr fire near Redding, California on July 27, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 28 July 2018
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California fire ‘tornado’ kills 2 firefighters, thousands flee

  • Wildfires have blackened an estimated 4.15 million acres (1.68 million hectares) in the United States this year
  • A 32-year-old man was charged with setting the Cranston fire, along with eight other blazes, and faces a potential life sentence

REDDING, California: A fast-growing northern California wildfire killed a second firefighter on Friday after high winds drove it into the city of Redding, prompting mass evacuations, destroying scores of homes and threatening some 5,000 other dwellings and businesses, officials said.
Flames raging in California’s scenic Shasta-Trinity area erupted into a firestorm that jumped across the Sacramento River and swept into the western side of Redding, home to about 90,000 people, forcing residents to flee.
Firefighters and police “went into life-safety mode,” hustling door to door to usher civilians out of harm’s way, said Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).
Streets in the Western town were all but deserted, with thick, sickly-brown smoke filling the air, and plumes of smoke rising to the west.
Gale-force winds on Thursday night created a fire “tornado” said CalFire Director Ken Pimlott.
“This fire was whipped up into a whirlwind of activity, uprooting trees, moving vehicles, moving parts of roadways,” Pimlott told a news briefing.
Such highly erratic, storm-like wildfires have grown commonplace in the state, Pimlott said.
“These are extreme conditions, this is how fires are in California,” he said. “We need to take heed and evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”
California has had its worst start to the fire season in a decade, with 289,727 acres burned through Friday morning, according to National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) data.
Governor Jerry Brown requested emergency federal assistance to prevent an “imminent catastrophe” as Shasta County tried to find supplies and water for 30,000 evacuated residents and care for horses and cattle rescued from ranches and farms.
CalFire reported 65 structures destroyed by the blaze, but McLean called that tally a “placeholder” figure that would grow significantly, with the number of homes lost likely to run into “the hundreds” as the scope of devastation was fully assessed.

CURTAIN OF SMOKE
The fire had scorched 44,450 acres (18,000 hectares) by Friday and was just 3 percent contained as ground crews, helicopters and airplanes battled the flames for a fifth day.
High temperatures and low humidity were expected for the next seven to ten days, said Pimlott.
“This fire is a long way from done,” he said.
The blaze was one of nearly 90 large fires burning nationally, most of them in the West. One of those prompted the closure of much of California’s Yosemite National Park.
Wildfires have blackened an estimated 4.15 million acres (1.68 million hectares) in the United States this year. That was well above average for the same period over the past 10 years but down from 5.27 million acres (2.13 million hectares) in the first seven months of 2017, NIFC reported.
The blaze in Redding, about 150 miles (240 km) north of Sacramento, on Thursday killed a bulldozer operator working with fire teams to clear brush around the fire. A member of the Redding Fire Department was also reported killed on Friday. A Redding hospital said it had treated eight people, including three firefighters.

THOUSANDS OF BUILDINGS IMPERILED
Rob Wright, 61, and his wife stayed to fight off flames with a high-powered water hose.
“We were fortunate enough that the wind changed hours ago, and it is pushing the fire back,” said Wright on Friday. “We are just waiting it out ... crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.”
Video and images posted on social media showed flames engulfing structures, as an orange glow lit up the sky.
A Red Cross employee told local ABC affiliate KRCR-TV some 500 people took shelter in an evacuation center at Shasta College. Motels were filled to capacity and livestock owners were told to take their animals to the town’s rodeo ground.
The Carr Fire, the name given to the Redding blaze,was one of three fierce blazes threatening large populated areas.
Cal Fire said the Cranston Fire, about 110 miles (177 km) east of Los Angeles had blackened 12,300 acres and was 16 percent contained. The Ferguson Fire near Yosemite, which has charred 46,675 acres, was 29 percent contained.
A 32-year-old man was charged with setting the Cranston fire, along with eight other blazes, and faces a potential life sentence if convicted of the charges.


Trump becomes first foreign leader to meet Japan’s new emperor

Updated 27 May 2019
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Trump becomes first foreign leader to meet Japan’s new emperor

TOKYO: Donald Trump on Monday became the first foreign leader to meet with Japan’s newly enthroned Emperor Naruhito — an honor Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes will help charm the US president when it comes to thorny trade talks.
The palace visit in the morning, followed by a royal banquet in the evening, was the main event in a feel-good trip that started Saturday and has seen Abe and Trump playing golf, eating out, watching sumo and generally enjoying an all-Japanese weekend.
Dining with Abe and their wives at a typical Tokyo grill restaurant on Sunday, Trump said he “had a great time” and was looking forward to meeting Naruhito, who took the Chrysanthemum Throne only three weeks ago, after his father stepped down in the first abdication in two centuries.
“Tomorrow is really the main event — a very important event in the history of Japan. It’s over 200 years since something like this has happened. So it’s a great honor to be representing the United States,” Trump said.
After calling on Naruhito in the morning, Trump and his avowed close friend Abe will meet for summit talks and have lunch, before holding a press conference.
On Sunday, they grinned for a selfie and praised each other’s golf game. Before the dinner, Abe also accompanied Trump to a sumo tournament where the US president presented a gigantic trophy, brought from the United States, to the champion wrestler.
Abe hopes those good vibes will spread into talks on trade, military ties, the stumbling efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and a growing superpower rivalry between Washington and Beijing.
Within an hour of touching down in Tokyo, Trump railed against what he sees as a trade imbalance between the world’s top and third-largest economies and vowed to make the relationship “a little bit more fair.”
But on Sunday, Trump struck a softer note, saying that “much” of that deal would wait until Abe faces upper house elections likely in July — as rumors swirl that the popular prime minister will combine that vote with a snap general election.
With his trade war against China getting bogged down, Trump won’t want to rock the boat for his closest Asian ally.
Top Japanese and American trade negotiators spent more than two hours locked in talks on Saturday night but failed to achieve a breakthrough, although the Japanese side said there was more “understanding” between the two sides.

Loving Chairman Kim
On North Korea, Trump appeared to undercut his own national security adviser, the hawkish John Bolton, by downplaying two recent short-range missile tests by Kim which raised tensions in the region.
“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Trump tweeted.
“I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me.”
Before Trump landed in Tokyo, Bolton had told reporters there was “no doubt” that the launches contravened UN Security Council resolutions, the first time a senior US administration official has said this.
The issue is bound to come up as the leaders meet families of people abducted by North Korea during the Cold War era to train Pyongyang’s spies, an emotive issue in Japan that Abe has pressed Trump to raise in talks with Kim.
The nationalist Abe himself has frequently offered to meet Kim to solve the “abductee problem,” as it is known in Japan.
On Tuesday, Trump is expected to address troops at a US base in Japan, highlighting the military alliance between the two allies.
His visit there will underline another big US priority — arms sales to Japan, which is considering revamping its air force with advanced US F-35 warplanes.