California wildfires: Trump repeats criticism of forest management as Queen sends condolences
Donald Trump on Saturday doubled down on his insistence that poor forest management was partly to blame for California’s most deadly fire ever, as the Queen sent her condolences to the state.
Before heading to California, the US president told reporters he had been raising concerns about the issue for a “long time”, adding: “This could have been a lot different”.
The so-called Camp Fire which swept through Paradise, a town close to 200 miles north of San Francisco, killed 76 but there are fears that figure could rise further.
The number of people missing has soared to 1,011, almost doubling in 24 hours, after reviews were carried out on records of emergency phone calls.
Some family members of loved ones unaccounted for spoke of time running out as the authorities searched through an area of destruction the size of Chicago looking for survivors.
Jonathan Clark, who was hunting for his brother, sister-in-law, and nephew, told Agence France-Presse: "I’m still going to keep on looking and hope for the best. My dad is starting to lose hope a little bit.”
The Queen paid tribute to the “courage and dedication” of the US emergency services and volunteers in the area in a message of condolence issued on Friday.
“Prince Philip and I offer our deepest sympathies to the people of California, who continue to suffer from the devastating fires across the state,” the Queen said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victims, and to all those who have lost their homes and livelihoods.”
Mr Trump had triggered a backlash a week ago when he tweeted that “there is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor” – a message that was sent before any show of sympathy to the victims.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House on Saturday before flying to California, Mr Trump again raised the issue.
“We will be talking about forest management. I’ve been saying that for a long time. It should have been a lot different,” Mr Trump said.
He added: “It’s a big issue, a very expensive issue, but very, very inexpensive when you compare it to even one of these horrible fires. And we’ll save a lot of lives.”
Mr Trump also praised the “unbelievably brave” firefighters who helped tackle the blaze and save lives, saying that he had read stories about their actions before visiting.
In a Fox News interview on Friday, Mr Trump conceded that rising temperatures from climate change – a factor cited by Californian politicians to explain recent fires – “contributes a little bit” but said that the “big problem” was forest management.
The Camp Fire has burned 146,000 acres (59,000 hectares) and was 50 percent contained by Friday, California’s fire service said.
Authorities said 47,200 people had been evacuated because of the fire and nearly 1,200 were living in shelters.