Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bush in California to see fire destruction

George W Bush has visited California to see for himself the damage done by the wildfires that have swept across parts of the state over the past week. Seven counties have been declared ‘disaster areas’. Eleven people have died in the fires which have destroyed an area larger than New York City according to some reports. The state has seen one of the driest years on record and is likely to be cited as another effect of Global Warming by environmentalists. Whatever the ultimate cause, it is a disaster that is some are saying is more devastating than Hurricane Katrina which destroyed large parts of New Orleans in 2005. However, Katrina killed up to 1,800 in the storms and prevailing floods compared to the 3 deaths, including one firefighter, that have been directly connected to the California fires [CNN]. Nevertheless, the fires have caused massive devastation, with more than 1,600 buildings having been incinerated and displaced more than 1 million people. The cost of the destruction runs into millions of dollars with some estimates running as high as a billion. There is also increasing concern that some of the fires were started deliberately, and Orange County has offered a $75000 reward for information leading to the arrest of two suspected arsonists.

The fire-fighting has been extremely difficult, hampered by high seasonal winds which have fanned the flames [CNN]. Those winds have dropped significantly on Thursday and Californian Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today tried to put a positive spin on events saying, “Everything is going really well… the key thing is, we all work together”.

Shortly after 9:30 local time [16:30 GMT] President Bush arrived at San Diego and met Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, dubbed the ‘Governator’ by CNN. They both boarded the Presidential helicopter before flying off to view from the air the scale of the devastation.

[CNN / BBC / Sky News]

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