Northern California wildfire kills 42 to rank as deadliest in state history

A wall is all that remains of a home after the wildfire tore through the area in Paradise, California. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2018
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Northern California wildfire kills 42 to rank as deadliest in state history

  • The bulk of the destruction and loss of life occurred in and around the town of Paradise
  • President Donald Trump on Monday approved a major disaster declaration for California at the request of Governor Jerry Brown

PARADISE, California: Search teams have recovered the remains of at least 42 people killed by a devastating wildfire that largely incinerated the town of Paradise in northern California, making it the deadliest single wildland blaze in state history, authorities said on Monday.
The latest death toll, up from 29 tallied over the weekend, was announced by Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea at an evening news conference in the nearby city of Chico after authorities located the remains of 13 additional victims from a blaze dubbed the Camp Fire.
That fire already ranked as the most destructive on record in California, having leveled more than 7,100 homes and other buildings since it erupted on Thursday in the Sierra foothills of Butte County, about 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco.
Honea said the number of people listed as missing in the disaster remained officially at 228, but added that his office had received more than 1,500 requests for “welfare checks” from people concerned about the fate of their loved ones. He said his office had managed to confirm the safety of the individuals in question in 231 of those cases so far.
More than 15,000 more structures remained listed as threatened on Monday in an area so thick with smoke that visibility was reduced in some places to less than half a mile.
The bulk of the destruction and loss of life occurred in and around the town of Paradise, where flames reduced most of the buildings to ash and charred rubble on Thursday night, just hours after the blaze erupted.
The 42 confirmed fatalities mark the largest loss of life ever from a single wildland fire in California, Honea said. It also far surpasses the all-time record number of deaths from a California wildfire — 29 in 1933 from the Griffith Park blaze in Los Angeles.
Authorities reported two more people perished over the weekend in a separate blaze, dubbed the Woolsey Fire, that has destroyed 370 structures and displaced some 200,000 people in the mountains and foothills near Southern California’s Malibu coast, west of Los Angeles.
President Donald Trump on Monday approved a major disaster declaration for California at the request of Governor Jerry Brown, hastening the availability of federal emergency assistance to fire-stricken regions of the state.
The fires have spread with an erratic intensity that has strained resources and kept firefighters struggling to keep up with the flames while catching many residents by surprise.
The remains of some of the Camp Fire victims were found in burned-out vehicles that were overrun by walls of fire as evacuees tried to flee by car in panic, only to be trapped in deadly knots of traffic gridlock on Thursday night.
“It was very scary,” Mayor Jody Jones recounted of her family’s own harrowing escape from their home as fire raged all around them.
“It took a long time to get out. There was fire on both sides of the car. You could feel the heat coming in through the car,” she told CNN. Jones said her family is now living in their mobile home parked in a vacant lot.
Honea said authorities have brought in 13 special search-and-recovery teams to seek out any further victims from the Camp Fire, and have requested additional cadaver-dog crews to assist in the search for human remains.


Trump sets $8bn-plus in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE

Updated 26 May 2019
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Trump sets $8bn-plus in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and UAE

  • Pompeo says US partners in Mideast need contracts to be completed to help deter Iran
  • Trump’s administration also announced that it was sending 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump, declaring a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, has swept aside objections from Congress to complete the sale of over $8 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan.

The Trump administration informed congressional committees that it will go ahead with 22 military sales to the Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan, infuriating lawmakers by circumventing a long-standing precedent for congressional review of major weapons sales.

Members of Congress had been blocking sales of offensive military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for months.

Several of Trump’s fellow Republicans, as well as Democrats, said they would object to such a plan, fearing that blowing through the “holds” process would eliminate Congress’ ability to check not just Trump but future presidents from selling weapons where they liked.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that US partners in the Middle East needed the contracts to be completed to help deter Iran, and that the decision to circumvent Congress was meant to be a “one-time event.”

In documents sent to Congress, Pompeo listed a wide range of products and services that would be provided to the countries. These include Raytheon precision-guided munitions (PGMs), support for Boeing Co. F-15 aircraft, and Javelin anti-tank missiles, which are made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Corp. 

Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad. Mike Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Other companies that will benefit include General Electric, now cleared to sell engines for use in F-16 fighter jets operated by the UAE, and the US unit of French firm Thales, which was cleared to sell a fuzing system for Paveway IV precision-guided bombs to Britain and the UAE.

It will also likely be welcome news for Britain’s BAE Systems Plc and Europe’s Airbus, clearing the way for installation of Paveway laser-guided bombs on European-built Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets sold to Saudi Arabia, as well F-15 fighters built by Boeing.

In his memorandum justifying the emergency declaration, Pompeo listed years of actions by Iran. “Iranian malign activity poses a fundamental threat to the stability of the Middle East and to American security at home and abroad,” he wrote and cited “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Tehran.

Trump’s administration also announced that it was sending 1,500 additional troops to the Middle East, which it described as an effort to bolster defenses against Iran over what it sees as a threat of potential attack.

Members of Congress from both parties have worried that Trump is pushing toward war with Iran. Clarke Cooper, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, said the administration was responding to important needs from partners.

“This is about deterrence and it’s not about war,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview.