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Trump visits fire-wracked California as more than 1,000 missing

Saturday, November 17, 2018

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PARADISE,United States(AFP)— President Donald Trump arrived in California Saturday to meet with officials, victims and the "unbelievably brave" firefighters there, as more than 1,000 people are listed as missing in the worst-ever wildfire to hit the US state.

"It seems many more people are missing than anyone thought even possible," Trump told reporters from the White House South Lawn shortly before boarding the Marine One helicopter to fly to Joint Base Andrews.

The deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California's history, the so-called Camp Fire, has now claimed 71 lives.

The fire has devoured an area roughly the size of Chicago, destroying nearly 10,000 homes and 2,400 other buildings.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters the number of people unaccounted for had soared, from 631 to 1,011, in 24 hours as authorities received more reports of people missing, and after earlier emergency calls were reviewed.

"I want you to understand that this is a dynamic list," Honea told reporters. He said that on a positive note, 329 people who had been listed as missing have now been accounted for.

"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, adding that some people who had escaped could be unaware they were listed as missing.

The inferno erupted November 8, laying waste to the town of Paradise in the northern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and sending thousands fleeing.

Trump on Saturday repeated an earlier claim that mismanagement of California's forests was largely to blame for the fires.

"We will be talking about forest management," he said. "This could have been a lot different situation."

Brian Rice, president of the California Professional Firefighters, called Trump's earlier remark "ill-informed," and added: "It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California."

California, which leans strongly Democratic, has been at the forefront of resistance to Trump's environmental and other policies.

But days after threatening to cut federal funding to California over its alleged "gross mismanagement" of forests, Trump tweeted Friday that he was looking forward to meetingGovernor Jerry Brown and his newly elected successor Gavin Newsom.

"We are with you!" Trump said.

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