California 'horror' fires kill at least 40, deadliest in state history

California 'horror' fires kill at least 40, deadliest in state history
Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:19:24

Fast-moving fires spread by shifting winds forced thousands more Californians to evacuate their homes on Saturday as the death toll from the deadliest blaze recorded in the state’s history rose to at least 40, with hundreds of people still missing.

(reuters) -- More than 10,000 firefighters supported by air tankers and helicopters overhead were battling 16 major wildfires, some encompassing several smaller merged blazes, in areas north of San Francisco that have consumed nearly 214,000 acres (86,000 hectares) over seven days, or roughly 334 square miles (865 sq km) - an area larger than New York City.

The 40 confirmed fatalities, including 22 in Sonoma County, already make it the deadliest fire event in California history.

Some 100,000 people have been forced from their homes, including 3,000 evacuated on Saturday from the city of Santa Rosa, about 50 miles (80 km) north of San Francisco.

“This is truly one of the greatest tragedies that California has ever faced. The devastation is just unbelievable. It is a horror that no one could have imagined,” California Governor Jerry Brown said on a visit to a devastated Santa Rosa.

The fires have damaged or destroyed about 5,700 structures, reducing homes and businesses to ash. The fires’ death toll surpassed the 29 deaths from the Griffith Park fire of 1933 in Los Angeles.

Janis and Roberto Lucha joined scores of people lining up at a temporary Federal Emergency Management Agency office in Santa Rosa, seeking help after losing their home of 27 years in the city’s Coffey Park neighbourhood, where most homes burned to the ground.

Molly Kurland, 63, has lived in her Santa Rosa home for nearly as long and her house was still standing. She joined a packed community meeting with worried residents at the Santa Rosa High School gymnasium.

”Even for people who haven’t lost their house, the uncertainty and anxiety is tremendous,“ she said. ”We are seeing the places where we shop for groceries disappear. My favourite restaurant is gone.”

(Photo: reuters)

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