77 Killed In California's Camp Fire As Number Of Missing Drops To 993

Authorities in California have added a fatality to the death toll from the Camp Fire, bringing its total number of deaths to at least 77.

The number of people unaccounted for has decreased to 993 — about 300 fewer than Saturday's count, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said on Sunday.

At least 80 people have died throughout the state since wildfires broke out earlier this month. Three of those fatalities were from the Woolsey Fire in Southern California.

Authorities have not yet declared an official cause of the fires and are investigating their origins.

In a Camp Fire incident update Monday morning, authorities described their progress in containing the deadliest wildfire in state history.

"Fire activity ranged from minimal to moderate overnight throughout various areas of the fire perimeter as firefighters continued to strengthen and improve control lines," they said. "Crews will continue implementing containment lines, patrol for heat in the interior, and mitigate hazards in the fire area."

The fire has burned about 151,000 acres and is 66 percent contained, as of Monday morning. More than 5,300 workers are battling the flames. Authorities say they don't expect the fire to be fully contained until Nov. 30.

Multiple search and rescue crews as well as teams using cadaver dogs to detect human remains are assisting the Butte County Sheriff's Office, authorities said.

More than 11,700 homes and nearly 4,000 other buildings have been destroyed. The entire Northern California community of Paradise was reduced to a wasteland of ash and burned-out buildings and cars in the fire that began just after 6:30 a.m. local time on Nov. 8.

Authorities continue to maintain a live evacuation map and structure damage map.

About 500 miles to the south, in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, the Woolsey Fire is also still burning.

The fire has burned 96,949 acres and is 94 percent contained, authorities said in their Monday update. Forecasters said winds and humidity are expected to drop throughout the day, as temperatures rise. More than 1,080 personnel are actively fighting the fire.

Nearly all evacuation orders have been lifted, but that doesn't mean evacuees will be able to return to their homes. Damage assessment teams have counted 1,500 structures that has been destroyed by the flames.

Authorities say they expect the Woolsey Fire will be fully contained by Thursday, on Thanksgiving Day.

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California Wildfire Missing Toll Rises To Over 600, Trump Set To Visit

Paradise: The number of people missing in one of California's deadliest wildfires soared to more than 600 on Thursday as the remains of seven additional victims were found by rescuers.

Authorities said the list of missing people had jumped from 300 to 631 during the day as investigators went back and reviewed emergency calls made when the so-called Camp Fire in northern California erupted on November 8.

"I want you to understand that the chaos we were dealing with was extraordinary" when the fire broke out, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told journalists, in explaining the staggering new toll of missing.

The seven additional victims brings to 63 the number of people who have died in the Camp Fire.

At least three other people have died in southern California in another blaze dubbed the Woolsey Fire, which engulfed parts of Malibu, destroying the homes of several celebrities.

- Trump to visit -

President Donald Trump is set to visit the western state on Saturday to meet with victims of the wildfires, believed to be the deadliest and most destructive in the state's history.

Many of the victims and the hundreds missing in the Camp Fire were elderly people who lived in the Butte County town of Paradise, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is believed they were unable to flee the fast-moving blaze or were trapped in their cars as they attempted to escape the inferno.

Honea said the number of those missing was likely to fluctuate as people call in to report loved ones unaccounted for or found alive.

"If you look at that list and see your name, or the name of a friend or loved one, please call to let us know," he said.

Investigators on Thursday collected DNA samples from relatives to help identify victims as hundreds of rescue personel and sniffer dogs worked to locate more victims.

Authorities said a wanted felon was killed inside the evacuation zone Thursday following a high-speed chase with police. The man was wanted for a double homicide in 2014 and had been seen for three days camped out in his car.

Virtually every home in Paradise, located 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of the state capital Sacramento, was destroyed by the fire, which was driven by high winds.

Body recovery teams are conducting a painstaking search of burned-out homes for human remains in the town and closely examining the many charred cars littering the roads.

The 63 deaths reported from the Camp Fire make it the deadliest wildfire in California's history, as the inferno also became the most destructive.

- 'A war zone' -

The California fire department (Cal Fire) said Thursday that the Camp Fire has destroyed 141,000 acres (56,655 hectares) and was 40 percent contained.

It said nearly 5,500 firefighters were battling the blaze and it did not expect it to be fully contained for another two weeks.

The Camp Fire has destroyed more than 8,650 single family homes and 260 commercial buildings, Cal Fire said.

The Woolsey Fire has razed 98,000 acres (39,660 hectares) and has been 62 percent contained. It is expected to be fully contained by Monday.

Authorities said cooler temperatures and calmer winds had brought welcome relief to fire crews.

A number of celebrities have lost their homes in Malibu as a result of the Woolsey inferno, including Pierce Brosnan, Miley Cyrus, Neil Young, Robin Thicke, Shannen Doherty and Gerard Butler.

California Governor Jerry Brown, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), toured the damage in Paradise on Wednesday.

"This is so devastating that I don't really have the words to describe it," Brown told a press conference. "It looks like a war zone."

Authorities said it was unclear when residents would be allowed back into the town.

While the cause of the Camp Fire is still under investigation, a lawsuit has been filed against the local power company, PG&E, by fire victims claiming negligence by the utility.

The complaint alleged that the fire began on November 8 when a high voltage transmission line failed, igniting tinder-dry vegetation.

The utility was found to be responsible for several devastating fires in northern California last fall that killed at least 15 people, and it faces billions of dollars in liability for the latest wildfires.

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California wildfires: statewide death toll rises to 50 as search for remains continues

The statewide death toll in California’s wildfires reached 50 late on Tuesday, as authorities reported six more deaths in the Camp fire in the north of the state.

The deaths from the Camp fire, the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history, have increased to 48, the Butte county sheriff, Kory Hone, said. Two people have also died in the Woolsey fire, a major blaze around Los Angeles.

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More Than 200 Still Missing In California's Deadliest Wildfire

More than 200 people were missing early on Monday in California's deadliest and most destructive blaze on record, one of two fires raging in the state which have killed at least 31 people and forced more than a quarter of a million evacuations.

The so-called Camp Fire 40 miles northwest of Sacramento burned down more than 6,700 homes and businesses in the town of Paradise, more structures than any other wildfire recorded in California.

The fire had burned more than 111,000 acres and was 25 percent contained by late Sunday, officials said. Its death toll of 29 now equals that of the Griffith Park Fire in 1933, the deadliest wildfire on record in California.

At least 228 people were still missing, according to Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.

In southern California, the Woolsey Fire has scorched at least 85,500 acres and destroyed 177 structures. The blaze was only 15 percent contained. At least two people have died in that fire, according to officials from the statewide agency Cal Fire.

The blaze has forced the authorities to issue evacuation orders for a quarter million people in Ventura and Los Angeles counties and beachside communities including the Malibu beach colony.

Celebrities at the People's Choice Awards Sunday night in Santa Monica, Ca., asked for prayers and donations for residents and first responders.

Reality television star Kim Kardashian said, 'It's been a really rough week in our home in Calabasas, Hidden Hills and our neighbors in Thousand Oaks and Malibu."

Actor Melissa McCarthy said, "Please keep the victims, volunteers and firefighters in your thoughts." She also asked people to donate to the Los Angeles fire Department Foundation.

Hot, dry winds were expected to whip up the fires burning in both tinder-dry southern and northern California until Tuesday, officials said.

Officials urged residents to heed evacuation orders.

"Winds are already blowing," Chief Daryl Osby of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said Sunday. "They are going to blow for the next three days. Your house can be rebuilt but you can't bring your life back."

Governor Jerry Brown asked U.S. President Donald Trump to declare a major disaster to bolster the emergency response and help residents recover.

Trump has criticized the California government in Tweets this weekend, blaming poor forest management for the infernos.

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Indonesian Aircraft Was New, Fell Out Of The Sky Minutes After Take-Off

PAKISJAYA: Fishermen Budi and Gauk left home an hour before dawn on Monday and, with prawn nets stowed on their shallow teak boat, they headed out in a becalmed sea off the coast northeast of Jakarta in clear weather.

About the same time, on the other side of the Indonesian capital, passengers were checking in for Lion Air flight JT610.

Then, shortly after 6:30 a.m. (2330 GMT Sunday), their lives collided.

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 literally fell out of the sky near where the two men were fishing about 15 km (9 miles) off the coast, silently at first and then with a deafening crash as it smacked into the sea.

"You could feel the explosion from the shockwave in the water," said Gauk, who goes by only one name, telling the pair's story from the beach in Karawang regency.

Police busied themselves with rubber dinghies and ambulances were lined up on the shoreline, but no one pretended that any of the 189 people on board flight JT610 would be found alive.

Yusuf Latief, spokesman of national search and rescue agency, said there were likely no survivors. There was no word on any probable cause for the accident.

Air travel is crucial in Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands that stretches about 5,100 km (3,170 miles) from east to west, almost the distance between New York and London. Although it is one of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets, it has been plagued by air disasters.

Lion Air, a low-cost airline that dominates the domestic air travel market, has had more than a dozen accidents in its nearly 20-year history, but none with fatalities since 2004.

Almost Brand New

The captain of Monday's flight JT610 from Jakarta to Pangkal Pinang, the main town on Bangka, a beach-fringed island off Sumatra, was Bhavye Suneja, a 31-year-old Indian citizen originally from New Delhi. He and an Italian passenger were the only known foreigners on board.

According to his Linkedin account, Suneja had worked for Lion Air since 2011, clocking up some 6,000 flight hours. On Facebook there are photos of him in his Lion Air uniform, smiling.

Minutes after take-off at 6:20 a.m., Suneja reported technical difficulties and obtained permission from ground officials to turn back.

Data from FlightRadar24 shows the first sign of something amiss was around two minutes into the flight, when the plane had reached 2,000 feet (610 metres).

The plane dropped more than 500 feet (152 metres), veered to the left and then started climbing again to 5,000 feet (1,524 metres). It gained speed in the final moments before data was lost when it was at an altitude of 3,650 feet (1,113 metres).

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 is the most recent model of Boeing's famous 737, the U.S. company's best-selling plane, and is a popular choice among budget airlines around the world.

Lion Air's plane was almost brand new. It was flown for the first time on Aug. 15, and the airline said it had been certified as airworthy before Monday's flight by an engineer who is a specialist in Boeing models.

Lion Air Chief Executive Edward Sirait said on Monday that the plane had encountered an unspecified "technical issue" on its previous flight, which was from the resort island of Bali to Jakarta, but this had been "resolved according to procedure".

"We don't dare to say what the facts are, or are not, yet," he told reporters. "We are also confused about the why, since it was a new plane."

"Wait And Be Brave"

At Jakarta airport, tearful passengers waited for news: a mother urged her toddler son to "wait and be brave", another told her crying girl, "be patient, pray the best for Papa."

The only news that came, though, was of body parts and debris found floating in the water around the crash site.

Photos published by the search and rescue agency showed pictures of articles belonging to passengers, including ID cards, a driving licence, and a pair of children's shoes.

One of the passengers was 22-year-old Deryl Fida Febrianto, who was married just two weeks ago and was on his way to Pangkal Pinang to work on a cruise ship.

His wife, Lutfinani Eka Putri, 23, said that her husband messaged her from the aircraft at 6:12 a.m., sending her a photo from the plane, and at 6:15 a.m. he stopped replying to her messages. They had grown up together, she told reporters, showing a picture of the smiling couple on their wedding day.

"When I saw the news, I matched the flight number with the ticket photo Deryl had sent," she said. "I immediately started crying."

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Indonesians step up search for quake victims to beat deadline as toll exceeds 2,000

PALU, Indonesia (Reuters) - Rescue workers in Indonesia stepped up their search for victims of an earthquake and tsunami on Tuesday, hoping to find as many bodies as they can before this week’s deadline for their work to halt, as the official death toll rose to 2,010.

The national disaster mitigation agency has called off the search from Thursday, citing concern about the spread of disease. Debris would be cleared and areas where bodies lie would eventually be turned into parks, sports venues and memorials.

Perhaps as many as 5,000 victims of the 7.5 magnitude quake and tsunami on Sept. 28 have yet to be found, most of them entombed in flows of mud flows that surged from the ground when the quake agitated the soil into a liquid mire.

RELATED COVERAGE

Health fears turn from injury to disease as Indonesia quake toll rises above 2,000

Most of the bodies have been found in the seaside city of Palu, on the west coast of Sulawesi island, 1,500 km (930 miles) northeast of the capital, Jakarta.

More than 10,000 rescue workers are scouring expanses of debris, especially in three areas obliterated by soil liquefaction in the south of the small city.

“We’re not sure what will happen afterwards, so we’re trying to work as fast as possible,” said rescue worker Ahmad Amin, 29, referring to the deadline, as he took a break in the badly hit Balaroa neighborhood.

At least nine excavators were working through the rubble of Balaroa on Tuesday, picking their way through smashed buildings and pummeled vehicles. At least a dozen bodies were recovered, a Reuters photographer said.

“There are so many children still missing, we want to find them quickly,” said Amin, who is from Balaroa and has relatives unaccounted for. “It doesn’t matter if it’s my family or not, the important thing is that we find as many as we can.”

The state disaster mitigation agency said the search was being stepped up and focused more intensely on areas where many people are believed to be buried.

The decision to end the search has angered some relatives of the missing but taxi driver Rudy Rahman, 40, said he had to accept it.

“As long as they keep searching, I will be here every day looking for my son,” said Rahman, who said he had lost three sons in the disaster. The bodies of two were found, the youngest is missing.

“This is the only thing I can do, otherwise I would go insane,” he said, choking back tears. “If they stop, what can I do? There are four meters of soil here. I couldn’t do it on my own.”

‘POLITICAL SENSITIVITIES’

While Indonesian workers searched, the disaster agency ordered independent foreign aid workers to leave the quake zone.

Indonesia has traditionally been reluctant to be seen as relying on outside help to cope with disasters, and the government shunned foreign aid this year when earthquakes struck the island of Lombok.

But it has accepted help from abroad to cope with the Sulawesi disaster.

The disaster agency, in a notice posted on Twitter, set the rules out for foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs), saying they were not allowed to “go directly to the field” and could only work with “local partners”.

“Foreign citizens who are working with foreign NGOs are not allowed to conduct any activity on the sites,” it said, adding that foreign NGOs with people deployed should withdraw them immediately.

A few foreign aid workers have been in the disaster zone, including a team from the group Pompiers Humanitaires Francais that searched for survivors, but they have spoken of difficulties in getting entry permits and authorization.

“This is the first time we encountered such difficulty in actually getting to do our work,” team leader Arnaud Allibert told Reuters, adding they were leaving on Wednesday as their help was no longer needed.

Indonesian governments are wary of being too open to outside help because they could face criticism from political opponents and there is particular resistance to the presence of foreign military personnel, as it could be seen as an infringement of sovereignty.

“There are political sensitivities, especially with an election coming up, and sovereignty is another issue,” said Keith Loveard, a senior analyst with advisory and risk firm Concord Consulting, referring to polls due next year.

Sulawesi is one of Indonesia’s five main islands. The archipelago sees frequent earthquakes and occasional tsunami.

In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Foreign governments and groups played a big role in aid efforts in 2004.

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At Least 11 Dead In Haiti Earthquake: Officials

Port-au-Prince: A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck just off the northwest coast of Haiti late Saturday, killing at least 11 people and causing damage to buildings in the Caribbean nation, authorities said.

The epicenter of the quake was located about 19 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of the city of Port-de-Paix, the US Geological Survey reported.

Government spokesman Eddy Jackson Alexis told news agency AFP that 11 people were so far reported dead, adding that a disaster response task force had been set up.

The quake struck at 8:10 pm (0010 GMT Sunday) at a shallow depth of 11.7 kilometers.

The tremor was felt in the capital Port-de-Prince, sparking emotion among residents still shell-shocked from the massive 2010 earthquake that left at least 200,000 people dead and 300,000 more wounded.

President Jovenel Moise took to Twitter to urge Haitians to "remain calm," and said local and regional authorities were assisting those in need.

"The injured are being treated at area hospitals," Haiti's civil protection agency said late Saturday, noting that some of the injuries were sustained when people panicked after the quake.

Images of damaged homes and partially destroyed buildings were circulating on social media, but AFP was not immediately able to confirm their authenticity.

Haiti's Nord-Ouest department is the poorest part of the impoverished country, with many isolated areas due to the dire state of the roads. Port-de-Paix is the capital of the department.

 

 

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After Indonesia's Tsunami-Earthquake Disaster, Scientists Look For Cause

Jakarta: Almost a week after a quake-tsunami wreaked devastation in central Indonesia, scientists are zeroing in on what they believe caused the highly unusual natural disaster.

The 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit off Sulawesi island Friday and sent destructive waves charging into the coast, reducing buildings in Palu to rubble and sweeping people to their deaths.

The city was not regarded as being at high-risk of a tsunami and was left grossly unprepared for the catastrophe, which has so far claimed more than 1,400 lives with hundreds more injured and missing. 

Now experts are piecing together the unlikely chain of events which laid waste to Palu.

The quake was a sideways -- rather than vertical -- movement of tectonic plates, seen as unlikely to generate a tsunami.

p3lkbr6"It's very unlikely the earthquake alone could generate a tsunami of that size", tsunami experts have said. 

But after sifting through mounds of data, scientists believe that the powerful tremor occurred over the vast length of a fault line, triggering underwater landslides that caused the tidal waves.

"This is an earthquake that is not the standard mechanism to generate a tsunami," Costas Synolakis, director of the University of Southern California's Tsunami Research Center, told AFP.


"It's fairly rare."

When the monster waves did roll in, their force was intensified as they rushed down a narrow bay into Palu.

In recent years Sumatra has been the main focus of authorities' concern when it comes to tsunamis as Aceh, on the island's northern tip, was devastated by a deadly quake-triggered tsunami in 2004. 

Officials fear another major quake and tsunami are inevitable at some point on the highly volatile fault line off the island's west coast, meaning there was greater vigilance towards the threat than in Sulawesi.

Apart from a handful of tsunami experts, few seemed worried that the fault line that cut through Palu would produce a tsunami, particularly as it is what is known as a "strike-slip" fault, where tectonic plates move sideways. 

In the Aceh tsunami and the majority of others, destructive waves were generated by a violent upward thrust of the Earth's crust, not a sideways movement.

But such was the force of the quake off Sulawesi and the aftershocks that followed, one or more underwater landslides are believed to have occurred that displaced huge quantities of water and sent waves barrelling into the coast.

'Have to learn from this'

"There is reasonable confidence that this tsunami was triggered at least partially by a landslide," Adam Switzer, a tsunami expert from Nanyang Technological University's Earth Observatory of Singapore, told AFP.

"It's very unlikely the earthquake alone could generate a tsunami of that size."

Even before the tsunami hit, the quake and the aftershocks that followed caused widespread devastation along the Sulawesi coast, with many buildings left in ruins and huge cracks ripped in roads. 

But with officials not expecting such a catastrophic event in the area, Palu seemed ill-prepared. 

A tsunami alert was issued at the national level when the quake hit but was lifted soon afterwards and it is not clear if there was an effective mechanism to relay the warning to people on the ground in Sulawesi. 

And the city's tide-monitoring station, which could have detected the destructive waves, was broken on the day, authorities have admitted.

But while many in Indonesia were surprised that the disaster hit Palu, scientists say there are other examples of such quakes. 

Of about 35 tsunamis documented since 1992, four are believed to have been caused by quake-triggered undersea landslides, but none were in Indonesia, according to Synolakis.

Despite the criticism that authorities were unprepared, seismologists have been more forgiving -- they say the chain of events was so complicated it would have been hard for even advanced warning systems to detect the tsunami.

"This is something the automated systems could not really anticipate," Synolakis said. 

Switzer said and his colleagues were working flat out to figure out exactly what happened, and it would likely be a long process.

"We really need to make sure that we understand this event, because we have to learn from this," he said.

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