More than 70 million euros worth of damage so far -and the wildfires are still burning. The largest evacuation in California’s modern history has seen more than half a million people flee their homes. About 1,500 properties have been destroyed and tens of thousands of hectares have been ravaged. The worst affected area has been San Diego, where one person has been killed. About 18 firefighters have been injured.
Over the past four days about 15 fires have caused damage from the Mexican border to northern Los Angeles county and inland into the San Bernardino Mountains.
President Bush has upgraded the official status of the emergencies in seven counties, releasing extra financial help for victims. “Today I’ve signed a major disaster declaration which will then enable federal funds to start heading towards the families who’ve been affected by these fires,” said Bush. “I’m looking forward to going out to California tomorrow … but most importantly I want the people in southern California to know that Americans all across this land care deeply about them.”
Authorities have moved quickly to organise the evacuations. The chaos and criticism of relief efforts in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is still fresh in many peoples’ minds.