California wildfires: Trump visits state’s deadliest wildfire

Donald Trump and council member Judy JonesImage copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Trump viewed the damage to homes in the town of Paradise, which was ravaged by fire

US President Donald Trump has arrived in California to survey the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.

The Camp Fire in northern California has killed at least 71 people.

More than 1,000 people are reported to be missing, although officials say that figure could fluctuate.

Speaking in the town of Paradise, Mr Trump praised the efforts of local law enforcement, politicians and the teams searching for survivors on the ground.

“Nobody could have thought this would ever happen,” Mr Trump told reporters on Saturday.

“This is very sad to see. As far as the lives are concerned, nobody knows quite yet,” Trump said. “Right now we want to take care of the people who have been so badly hurt.”

Leaving for the trip, Mr Trump again focused on forest management as a cause of the blazes, a claim that has been disputed by experts.

“I don’t think we’ll have this again to this extent,” Mr Trump said at the scene on Saturday. “Hopefully this is going to be the last of these because this was a really, really bad one.”

On top of the Camp Fire, firefighters are also tackling several other blazes, including the Woolsey Fire near Los Angeles which has claimed at least three lives.

And adding to the misery, scores of people have become sick after outbreaks of the norovirus at shelters and the air quality in northern California has been rated the world’s worst.

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Heavy rain is forecast next week that could douse the flames but also bring mudslides and floods on hillsides stripped of vegetation.

What’s the latest on the Camp Fire?

The death toll rose to 71 on Friday after seven more bodies were found in the town of Paradise, which has been all but destroyed by the fire.

Military troops are assisting forensics teams and cadaver dogs as they continue to search for human remains eight days on after the Camp Fire first broke out.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dogs are being used to search for human remains among the devastation

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea put the number of people unaccounted for at 1,011, a sharp leap from the 631 reported just 24 hours earlier.

However, he described the list as “dynamic”,

“The information I am providing you is raw data and we find there is the likely possibility that the list contains duplicate names,” he said.

Some of those on the list may be fine but unaware they have been reported missing, or unable to call, authorities say.

The Camp Fire is now about 50% contained but fire officials say they may not have it fully under control until the end of the month.

What kind of welcome will the president get?

Mr Trump is also due to meet survivors and firefighters involved in tacking the blaze.

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Asked on Fox News if he thought climate change had contributed to the wildfires, he said “Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management.”

California Governor Jerry Brown, who has criticised this argument as simplistic, welcomed the president to the state.

“Now is a time to pull together for the people of California,” he tweeted.

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Media captionCalifornia wildfires survivor’s tearful account of escape with son

Others suggested the president faced a difficult reception. One woman who voted for Mr Trump and was forced to flee Paradise said she disagreed with his assessment.

“I would tell him that this fire has nothing to do with forest mismanagement. Thousands and thousands of homes got destroyed with no trees around,” Roslyn Roberts told Reuters.

Another woman, living in a shelter, told Associated Press: “If you insult people, then you go visit them, how do you think you’re going to be accepted? You’re not going to have a parade.”

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many of the victims were found dead, trapped in their cars
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The fires are being brought under control but it could be weeks before they are fully contained

Historically, California’s “wildfire season” started in summer and ran into early autumn – but experts have warned that the risk is now year-round.

Low humidity, warm winds, and dry ground after a rain-free month have produced a prime fire-spreading environment.

Trump tours California’s wildfire damage

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