‘Whole town is burning’: Residents flee Northern California wildfire

The blaze began early on Thursday and quickly charred 18,000 acres. (Chico Enterprise-Record via AP)
Updated 09 November 2018
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‘Whole town is burning’: Residents flee Northern California wildfire

  • With limited escape routes from the town, which is built on a ridge, traffic accidents turned roads into gridlock
  • California is experiencing one of its worst fire years ever, with 621,743 acres (251,610 hectares) burned through Sunday

A fast-moving Northern California wildfire burned dozens of structures on Thursday, injuring residents and firefighters, as tens of thousands of people fled in a “chaotic” mass evacuation, state authorities said.
Driven by high winds and dry conditions, the blaze dubbed the Camp Fire swept through the town of Paradise, with social media reports that a hospital, high school and K-Mart store were on fire. State fire authorities said they could not confirm the reports.
“The whole town is burning,” Bob Van Camp, a resident who escaped on his motorbike, told local TV channel Action News Now. “We had to ride through flames to get here,” he said from the side of a road west of Paradise.
With limited escape routes from the town, which is built on a ridge, traffic accidents turned roads into gridlock, with residents forced to abandon vehicles and run from the flames carrying children and pets, officials said. One woman stuck in traffic went into labor, the Enterprise-Record newspaper reported.
“It’s very chaotic. It’s a very bad fire,” Officer Ryan Lambert of the California Highway Patrol said of the evacuation. “The mass population is trying to be evacuated at once, a fast-moving fire, trying to get everybody evacuated on the roads, a lot of congestion, traffic accidents.”
The blaze began early on Thursday and quickly charred 18,000 acres (3,237 hectares), forcing the evacuation of the 27,000 residents of Paradise, about 150 miles (240 km) northeast of San Francisco, and other communities, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said in a statement.
“It’s got all the right conditions to have grown very large, very quickly,” said Cal Fire spokesman Rick Carhart. “There is significant loss of structures, and civilian and firefighter injuries.” He said he did not know the number of injuries or how many structures were destroyed.
Wildfire photographer Bernie Deyo tweeted that one of the main buildings at Feather River Hospital in Paradise was on fire.
Fire authorities did not indicate how the blaze started.
California is experiencing one of its worst fire years ever, with 621,743 acres (251,610 hectares) burned through Sunday in areas covered by Cal Fire, nearly twice the amount during the same period of 2017 and nearly triple the five-year average.
The Camp Fire has cut off power to roughly 34,000 customers in Butte and Plumas counties, according to a spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric. 


Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

Updated 23 January 2019
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Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

  • Assurances given that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants
  • The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide

KABUL: The Afghan government has launched a polio vaccination program covering 5.4 million children in high-risk areas, officials said on Tuesday.

The one-month campaign to inoculate children under 5 years old started on Monday after assurances from tribal chiefs and clerics that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants, and that families will allow their kids to get the lifetime immunization, the officials said.

The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide. Among the reasons were health workers’ lack of access due to violence, and families preventing their children from being vaccinated because of the perception that it is hazardous to their health, said Waheed Mayar, chief spokesman for the Public Health Ministry.

Some vaccinators were killed by suspected militants in past years while touring villages. “This year, we’ve received assurances from villagers, tribal chiefs and clerics that they’ll make sure vaccinators are allowed (to do their work) as vaccination is essential for their children,” Mayar told Arab News.

High-risk areas include parts of western, southeast and central Afghanistan, the Public Health Ministry said.

“We will have five vaccination campaigns for the first half of 2019. We are using this time to build immunity among our people,” Public Health Minister Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz said in a statement.

“We need to work together to end polio for the world… We need to help each other, open our doors, get our children vaccinated,” he added.

“Our children are innocents and rely on us to protect them from preventable paralysis. We cannot let them down.”

Parents should plan to have their children at home and available to be vaccinated during the campaign, the ministry said.

“The polio vaccine is safe, even for sick and newborn children. It is very important these children get the vaccine because they have lower immunity, which makes them more susceptible to the virus,” the ministry added. “Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars.”