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Five more bodies found as northern California wildfire death toll rises to 76 – National

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Forensic recovery teams searched for more victims in the charred wreckage of the northern California town of Paradise on Saturday as the number of people listed as missing in the state’s deadliest wildfire topped 1,000.

President Donald Trump visited the devastated small community in the Sierra foothills, 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco, where authorities say the remains of at least 71 people have been recovered.

READ MORE: Donald Trump visits California wildfire zones

Paradise was home to nearly 27,000 residents before it was largely incinerated by the blaze on the night of Nov. 8.

“Nobody could have thought this would ever happen,” Trump told reporters amid the charred wreckage of the town’s Skyway Villa Mobile Home and RV Park.

“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.”

WATCH: Video shows firefighter working hard to battle back flames in California wildfire







Trump was flanked by California Governor Jerry Brown and Governor-elect Gavin Newsom. Brown said the federal government was doing what it needed to do, including supporting first responders and helping with clean-up and search for victims.

The disaster already ranks among the deadliest U.S. wildfires since the turn of the last century. Eighty-seven people perished in the Big Burn firestorm that swept the Northern Rockies in August of 1910. Minnesota’s Cloquet Fire in October of 1918 killed 450 people.

Trump has blamed the recent spate of fires on forest mismanagement, and he said he discussed the issue with Brown and Newsom on the ride into Paradise.

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

WATCH: Trump blames forest management as he visits California’s wildfire zone







Asked whether the scenes of devastation had changed his view on climate change, Trump said: “No. I have a strong opinion. I want great climate and we’re going to have that and we’re going to have forests that are very safe.”

Authorities attribute the high death toll from the blaze – dubbed “Camp Fire” – partly to the speed with which flames raced through the town with little warning, driven by howling winds and fueled by drought-desiccated scrub and trees.

READ MORE: California crews search for wildfire victims as list of missing surpasses 1,000

More than a week later, firefighters have managed to carve containment lines around 55 percent of the blaze’s perimeter. The fire covered 148,000 acres (60,000 hectares), fire officials said.

Besides the toll on human life, property losses from the blaze make it the most destructive in California history, posing the additional challenge of providing long-term shelter for many thousands of displaced residents.

Evacuees

With more than 9,700 homes up in smoke, many refugees have taken up temporary residence with friends and family, while others have pitched tents or were living out of their vehicles.

At least 1,100 evacuees were being housed in 14 emergency shelters set up in churches, schools and community centers around the region, with a total of more than 47,000 people remaining under evacuation orders, authorities said.

Several shelters are full and, although authorities say they still have space for everyone, hundreds of people have been camping in tents and cars in the area.

Search teams with cadaver dogs have combed through rubble-strewn expanses of burned-out neighborhoods looking for bodies.

WATCH: Drone video shows devastation to Paradise caused by fires







On Friday night, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the remains of eight more fire victims were recovered during the day, bringing the death toll to 71.

Honea said the total roster of people unaccounted for had swelled to 1,011 – more than triple the number counted as missing on Thursday afternoon.

“This is a dynamic list,” Honea told reporters, saying it was compiled from “raw data” that likely included some duplications or multiple spellings of names.

READ MORE: Canadian couple from B.C. helping feed fire-affected residents in California

Honea bristled when asked whether many of those listed at this point, more than a week after the disaster, were expected to end up either deceased or declared missing and presumed dead.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for any of us to sit and speculate about what the future holds,” he said. As of Friday, he said, 329 individuals previously reported missing had turned up alive.

List of the missing

The names were being compiled from information received from a special hotline, along with email reports and a review of emergency 911 calls that came in on the first night of the fire, Honea said.

Some listed have likely survived but not yet notified family or authorities. Others may not have been immediately listed because of delays in reporting them.

Weather conditions have since turned more to firefighters’ favor, though strong, gusty winds and lower humidity were expected to return late on Saturday through early Sunday ahead of rain forecast for mid-week.

WATCH: Firefighting operation ‘like an Iraqi war’, Zinke says







The outbreak of Camp Fire coincided with a series of smaller blazes in Southern California, most notably the Woolsey Fire, which is linked to three fatalities and has destroyed at least 500 structures near the Malibu coast west of Los Angeles. It was 78 percent contained on Friday night.

Scientists have said the growing frequency and intensity of wildfires in California and elsewhere across the West are largely attributable to prolonged drought that is symptomatic of climate change.

The precise causes of the Camp and Woolsey Fires were under investigation, but electric utilities have reported equipment problems in the vicinity of both blazes around the time they erupted.



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FOREIGN NEWS

Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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FOREIGN NEWS

Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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FOREIGN NEWS

Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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