At least 56 killed, more than 100 missing in California wildfire

A firefighter is silhouetted by a burning home along Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) during the Woolsey Fire on November 9, 2018 in Malibu, California. (AFP)
Updated 15 November 2018
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At least 56 killed, more than 100 missing in California wildfire

  • Most of those who remain unaccounted for are from Paradise, which was once home to 27,000 people but was largely incinerated last Thursday night in the killer blaze, dubbed the Camp Fire

PARADISE, California: The remains of eight more victims were found on Wednesday in and around a northern California town overrun by flames last week, raising the death toll to 56 in a wildfire disaster that ranks as the most lethal and destructive in the state’s history.
The latest fatality count was announced hours after National Guard troops arrived to assist in combing through the ash-strewn ruins in what was left of Paradise, California, a Sierra foothills hamlet about 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco.
Late on Wednesday, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office released a list http://www.buttecounty.net/Portals/24/pdf/CampFireMissingPersons.pdf?ver=2018-11-14-082238-507 of more than 100 people reported missing by relatives, the majority of them over the age of 65. Initially 230 people were officially reported as missing.
Most of those who remain unaccounted for are from Paradise, which was once home to 27,000 people but was largely incinerated last Thursday night in the killer blaze, dubbed the Camp Fire.
More than 8,800 buildings, most of them houses, burned to the ground in and around Paradise, a hamlet once home to 27,000 people. An estimated 50,000 people remained under evacuation orders.
The footprint of fire grew to 135,000 acres (55,000 hectares) as of Wednesday, even as diminished winds and rising humidity allowed firefighters to carve containment lines around more than a third of the perimeter.
“Progress is being made,” said Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) at a news conference flanked by Governor Jerry Brown, US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and other officials.
“This is one of the worst disasters I’ve seen in my career, hands down,” Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told reporters in the nearby city of Chico.
The killer blaze, fueled by thick, drought-desiccated scrub, has capped two back-to-back catastrophic wildfire seasons in California that scientists largely attribute to prolonged drought they say is symptomatic of climate change.
But lawyers for some of the victims are pointing to lax maintenance by an electric utility as the proximate cause of the fire, which officially remains under investigation.
The Butte County disaster coincided with a flurry of blazes in Southern California, most notably the Woolsey Fire, which has killed at least two people, destroyed more than 400 structures and displaced about 200,000 people in the mountains and foothills near the Malibu coast west of Los Angeles.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said the remains of a possible third victim were found in a burned-out dwelling.


Indian election fever wins tourism vote from around the world

Updated 30 min 20 sec ago
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Indian election fever wins tourism vote from around the world

  • General elections in India take on something of a festival feel
  • More than 35 tour companies in India are hoping to cash in on the election tourism trade

NEW DELHI: Tourists to India are being given the chance to elect for a package holiday with a difference when the country goes to the polls next month.

Travel operators are offering all-in breaks which include taking part in election rallies, attending polls and joining key political figures on campaign trails.

More than 1,600 holidaymakers from around the world have already booked six-day and two-week package deals costing between $600 and $2,000.

Minal Jain, from Indian agency Akshar Travels, said: “We want to showcase Indian democracy to the world. But not just in one state. We want to take people to different parts of India and expose them to different cultures and show how this diverse country comes together to operate democracy.”

General elections in India take on something of a festival feel, and more than 900 million people are expected to head to the polls when voting gets underway on April 11. The result of what is expected to be a tightly fought contest will be announced on May 23.

And more than 35 tour companies in India are hoping to cash in on the election tourism trade.

Akshar Travels, based in the Gujarat state capital of Ahmedabad, has several packages available on its website www.electiontourismindia.com.

Jain said that most of their customers were students, researchers and elderly people interested in Indian culture, history and politics.

As well as hundreds of confirmed bookings, agents had received more than 3,500 other enquiries from around the world about election breaks, Jain added.

The concept of election tourism began in Mexico in 2005 and gained traction a year later at a major international tourism conference in London attended by more than 100 travel operators.

It was first trialed in India during the 2012 Gujarat elections, and gained momentum in the general elections of 2014 when more than 5,200 tourists from countries including China, Nepal, the US, the UAE, Australia, Ukraine, Japan, Germany and France signed up for package deals.

Nimisha Limbachia, a non-resident Indian (NRI) based in Britain, took an Indian election holiday in 2014. “I was really curious to witness the elections after the anti-corruption movement in 2014 that galvanized the whole nation,” she said.

“It was a wonderful experience to see the huge rallies and electrifying crowds that gathered to hear Narendra Modi (current Indian Prime Minister),” the marketing professional told Arab News.

Limbachia intends to return this year too, along with hundreds of other trippers from Britain and throughout Europe.

“People in Britain and Europe are not exposed to big open rallies,” she added. “Thousands of people jostling with each other in the harsh sun to listen to speeches is something unheard of in Britain but there are many who want to experience that.”