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At least 1,500 structures destroyed in Northern California wildfires

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california-wildfires

A California fire official said at least 1,500 homes and commercial buildings have been destroyed in wildfires that have ripped through the state’s wine country.

The Tubbs Fire in Napa County has scorched 25,000 acres and is 0 percent contained.

The Nuns Fire in Sonoma County has burned 300 acres and is 0 percent contained.

The Atlas Fire in Napa County has burned 200 acres and is 0 percent contained.

A state fire official called the damage estimates conservative and said the fires were burning throughout an eight-county swath of Northern California, including Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

Numerous people had been hurt and some were missing, although no estimates were immediately available, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered after the blazes broke out late Sunday. Long lines formed at gas stations when many families heeded a middle-of-the-night call to get out.

“It was an inferno like you’ve never seen before,” said Marian Williams, who caravanned with neighbors before dawn as one of the wildfires reached the vineyards and ridges at her small Sonoma County town of Kenwood.

Williams could feel the heat of her fire through the car as she fled.

“Trees were on fire like torches,” she said.

With downed trees or flames blocking some routes, Sonoma County residents struggled to figure out what roads to take.

Fires also burned just to the east in the Napa County as well as in Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties — all north of the state capital. The firefighting agency Cal Fire tweeted that as many as 8,000 homes were threatened in Nevada County, which lies on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.

Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said there were no reports of injuries or deaths, although the fires had burned more than 68 square miles. Crews had not yet been able to contain a fire heading toward downtown Napa.

“Right now, with these conditions, we can’t get ahead of this fire and do anything about the forward progress,” Biermann said. He said there were seven large fires burning in Lake, Sonoma and Napa counties.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.
Smoke was thick in San Francisco, 60 miles south of the Sonoma County fire.

John Dean was driving to his Sonoma County home early Monday when he saw a house on fire along the road. Soon he saw more houses engulfed in flames.

“I mean blazing, falling down on fire,” he said.

Dean sped to his home in Kenwood, alerted neighbors and fled to the town of Sonoma. He was one of hundreds of evacuees who streamed into a 24-hour Safeway market overnight, while authorities set up an official evacuation center.

Maureen McGowan was house-sitting for a brother near Kenwood, and said both of the homes on his property were on fire when she left. At the Safeway, she pointed to her feet, still in slippers. She had fled so fast that she hadn’t put on her shoes.

Officials did not yet have a count on how many properties were affected, either by the fire directly or by evacuations, said Belia Ramos, chairwoman of the Napa County Board of Supervisors.

“We’re focusing on making evacuations and trying to keep people safe. We are not prepared to start counting,” she said shortly after sunrise.

The “tremendous” wind gusts were making the fire unpredictable, she said. “It’s something that we’re having to be very cautious about.”

Ann Dubay, a spokeswoman for the Sonoma County Emergency Operations Center, said the area where the largest fire started was relatively rural but the flames “went through many, many neighborhoods,” and authorities did not know how many structures were gone.

Emergency lines were inundated with callers reporting smoke, prompting officials to ask that the public “only use 911 if they see actual unattended flames, or are having another emergency.”

Business owner Andy Lahiji stood before a burned-out warehouse where he said he had lost his inventory of furniture and other property. He said it took firetrucks ages to arrive Monday morning.

“They said, ‘We have so many other places to go, you have to wait.’ And then when they came, they had only a couple of guys,” he told the station. “I feel very sad. I’m glad nobody got hurt. Hopefully insurance takes care of it.”

The National Weather Service said widespread wind gusts between 35 mph and 50 mph were observed in the north San Francisco Bay region and isolated spots hit 70 mph. The winds were expected to subside at midday.

Community centers, the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and other local centers were opened for evacuees.

Disaster

Super Typhoon Mangkhut lands on south China coast

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Super Typhoon ‘Mangkhut

Beijing, Sep 17 : Super Typhoon Mangkhut landed at 5 p.m. on Sunday on the coast of Jiangmen City, south China’s Guangdong Province, packing winds up to 162 km per hour, according to the provincial meteorological station.

More than 2.52 million people have been relocated, and over 48,000 fishing boats called back to port in the province as of 6 p.m. on Sunday, Xinhua reported.

Work has been suspended at more than 29,000 construction sites and 640 tourist spots were closed.

All flights were cancelled in airports of Guangzhou and Shenzhen and will be resumed starting 8 a.m. on Monday. All high-speed train services and some normal-speed rail services have been suspended in Guangdong and Hainan provinces.

According to the National Meteorological Center, Mangkhut has entered Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, moving northwestward at a speed of 30 km per hour as of 11 p.m on Sunday.

About 228,000 people have been relocated in the region, and 98 flights were cancelled in Nanning, the region’s capital city, as of 7 p.m. on Sunday. All rail services between Guangxi and Guangdong were suspended on Sunday.

In the region’s coastal cities of Beihai, Qinzhou and Fangchenggang, over 8,000 fishing boats have returned to port, and schools will close on Monday.

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Analysis

Planet sending a clear message to act now: UN Environment’s Eric Solheim

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United Nations Environment head Erik Solheim

San Francisco, Sep 12 : The planet is sending a clear message — to act and that too within a short time-frame or lose the ability to turn things around, says United Nations Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim.

“Typhoons and floods are not new, but we are seeing a broader pattern of more severe and more frequent extreme weather events,” Solheim told IANS in an interview here.

His concerns came ahead of the three-day Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) that began on Wednesday with the participation of 4,000 plus business and political leaders, investors, citizens and government representatives from all over the world in this California city.

“That’s (natural calamities) what the scientists predicted, and it’s what we’re seeing play out now right in front of our eyes. Our planet is sending us a clear message. We have to act, and we’re a short time-frame to do so before we lose the ability to turn things around.”

He was replying to a question on his thoughts for the people of Kerala in India and Osaka in Japan that have been recently affected by floods and a typhoon.

Solheim, who is also attending the summit, which aims to “take ambition to the next level” and persuade the world’s Presidents and Prime Ministers to go further and faster to reduce emissions, said: “The bottom line is that we need to step up the ambition and create a momentum.”

On India playing a leading role in driving down global emissions, he said “absolutely”.

“I think Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has shown incredible leadership in driving the shift to renewables and steering India towards being a greener, cleaner economy. The innovation that we’re seeing, not just in terms of renewables deployment but also the wider shift to a more circular economic model, is really encouraging.”

From India, Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra is one of the Global Climate Action Summit’s Co-Chairs.

In a plenary on September 13, he will provide an update on how many companies that have adopted Science-Based Targets — aligning their pollution reduction plans with the Paris agreement.

Solheim saw business value in companies adopting science-based climate targets.

“We’re seeing more and more examples of businesses wanting to do this, and dozens of global giants on that path.

“For me it’s important for two reasons: Firstly, companies are showing how sustainability can be a core part of business, rather than an on-the-side CSR (corporate social responsibility) exercise. They’re moving beyond PR (public relations),” he said.

“Secondly, the companies doing this are seeing strong support from shareholders and investors. They’re seeing that these targets are also about efficiency and innovation. That makes a business less exposed to environmental risk, which is good for business.”

One recent example he has seen is the company IKEA, which is aiming to be climate positive by 2030 and this requires an 80 per cent cut in emissions, the UN Environment head said: “It’s a sound move as the company will have a head start in making the transition to a low carbon economy.”

“In India I was also really impressed when I visited the Infosys campus in Hyderabad. They have clear targets on waste, cooling, power consumption and overall efficiency, which make them not only commendable from the environmental perspective, but also a compelling investment.”

Favouring electric vehicles that will play a role in decarbonising of the economy, Solheim said: “We have to see the introduction of electric vehicles as part of the wider change we need to see in transport. That includes more public transport or transport-sharing solutions.”

He said the developed countries need to look at the shift not as a constraint or an obligation, but as an opportunity for greater energy security, a more inclusive economy and the lower healthcare burden that comes from tackling the causes of pollution.

“India isn’t making the change because it wants to shoulder the burden of climate action, but because it makes perfect sense from an economic perspective. That’s how more countries need to see it,” he said.

(Vishal Gulati is in San Francisco at the invitation of the Climate Trends to cover the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS). He can be contacted at [email protected])

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Cities

Moderate intensity quake hits Jammu Kashmir

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Earthquake
Representative Image

Srinagar, Sep 12: An earthquake measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale occurred in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday, a disaster management department official said. No damage to life or property has been reported.

The moderate intensity quake was felt at 5.15 a.m. and the epicentre was located 199 km north of Kargil town in the Ladakh region, he said.

A major quake measuring 7.6 had killed over 40,000 people on both sides of the Line of Control on October 8, 2005.

IANS

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