California: Wildfires raging across broad swaths of Northern California have killed at least 17 people, hospitalised hundreds, and destroyed an estimated 2,000 buildings, as hundreds of firefighters battled to control the flames.
The White House said United States President Donald Trump has signed a major disaster declaration and fire management assistance grants for the state."The loss of homes and burning of precious land is heartbreaking, but the loss of life is truly devastating," CNN quoted Press Secretary Sarah Sanders as saying
But state and local officials warned that about 180 people are missing and unaccounted for, and some areas still out of reach of emergency crews, those figures are almost certain to rise.The largest fires were burning in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties, filling the picturesque landscape of the state's wine country with charred rubble and clouds of smoke.
Sonoma and Napa counties has more than 100,000 acres of wine grapes and are home to more than 650 wineries, according to the Wine Institute.
Officials fear that the death toll to rise and high winds in coming days could complicate efforts to contain fires that have already torched 122,000 acres of land, mostly in Northern California's wine country.
Seventeen wildfires, some fanned by up to 50 miles per-hour wind gusts whipping across parched terrain loaded with tinder, have forced about 25,000 residents to evacuate and destroyed at least 2,000 homes and commercial buildings.
"These folks have lost everything. When you look at the destruction, it's literally like it exploded," California Fire Director Ken Pimlot said.
Already, 25,000 people had been ordered to leave the area and other parts of Northern California and officials in the city of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County called for the evacuations of five more areas .
"It is too early to tell whether any of the wildfires were started by humans, All these fires are under investigation," CNN quoted California Fire Director Ken Pimlot as saying , adding that his department was focusing on rescues and firefighting. But he said the chance the fires were caused by lightning was "fairly minimal."