Accidents Foreign News

California fires: chaos as blaze rages out of control with more than 100 missing

Written by Maritime First

…As 13 die, 8 badly wounded in prison riot in northern Mexico***

The northern California wildfires continued to blaze mostly unabated on Tuesday as local residents reckoned with a growing death toll, catastrophic losses and their fears for those still missing.

As of Tuesday afternoon, at least 15 people had died in 17 major fires across California, according to Cal Fire, the agency responsible for fire protection, as the state notched one of the deadliest fire days in its history. More than 2,000 structures have been destroyed, and the Sonoma County sheriff has received 240 missing-person reports, though 57 people have since been located.

“She was frantic, she was exhausted,” Amy Lynn Caplan said of her friend Linda, a woman in her mid-50s who was evacuating her senior living facility in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, on Monday. Caplan said that Linda, whose surname she did not want to provide, seemed disoriented and was having trouble navigating amid the confusion.

“She’s not tech-savvy, she doesn’t know how to use Google Maps or anything like that, and the battery on her cellphone died.” That was the last Caplan heard of her.

About 20,000 people have been evacuated, and Vice-President Mike Pence announced on Tuesday that Donald Trump had approved a major disaster declaration, allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) to mobilize additional equipment and resources. Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fires.

The largest conflagration is in California’s wine country, about 50 miles north of San Francisco. Fires there are at 0% containment, which means that firefighters have not cleared vegetation from the fire’s perimeter.

In the meantime, at least 13 inmates died in a prison riot in northern Mexico that authorities ended with lethal force, a state security official said late Tuesday.

Spokesman Aldo Fasci said the riot occurred at the state prison in Cadereyta and the death toll could climb because eight people were in critical condition.

All afternoon Tuesday, desperate families battled authorities outside the prison gates, demanding information about their relatives inside as black smoke poured from several points inside the facility.

Several hours of attempted negotiations failed and police using non-lethal force were unable to quell the riot, Fasci said. So authorities decided to use lethal force to protect the lives of the guards and the prisoners.

Authorities could see through video monitors that at least one prisoner had already been killed and guards had been taken hostage, Fasci said. The guards were being held and beaten on the roof.

“If they had not taken these decisions right now we would be talking about many more dead,” Fasci said.

The trouble started Monday night when one of the half-dozen gangs that are normally kept apart inside the prison protested. The protest died down, but early Tuesday morning fighting broke out and a prisoner was killed and his body burned, Fasci said.

When police first went in trying to take control they were met by about 150 prisoners who attacked them with metal tools and rubble from work that was being carried out inside the prison.

No guards were killed in the violence, but a police officer was gravely wounded with a punctured lung.

It is 4,000 inmates against 300 guards, Fasci said, adding the facility was not designed for that many prisoners or prisoners of the risk level it holds.

“It’s very difficult to keep them in order,” he said.

He said autopsies would be required to determine how many were killed by other inmates and how many by authorities. At least two appeared to have died from bullet wounds.

In March, four inmates in the same prison died after they took control of a prison pharmacy and apparently overdosed.

In another prison in Nuevo Leon, 49 prisoners died when two factions of the Zetas cartel clashed in February 2016.

Guardian with additional report from ABC

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