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  1. ITV Report

Trump heads to California to meet survivors of deadly wildfires amid renewed forest management criticism

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia

Donald Trump has reiterated his belief that poor forest management is party to blame for the deadly forest fires which have left at least 71 people dead in California.

Currently 1,011 people remain unaccounted for after the Camp Fire tore through Northern California, authorities have said.

Eight more bodies were found on Friday, while the missing persons list grew from 631 on Thursday night to 1,011.

Mr Trump visited one of the worst hit towns, Paradise, on Saturday.

He addressed reporters: "This is very sad to see. As far as the lives are concerned, nobody knows quite yet. Right now we want to take care of the people who have been so badly hurt."

Mr Trump's visit comes amid criticism he is politicising the fires, the causes of which are not yet known, but a lack of rain and warm winds are thought to have contributed to their ferocity.

Watch: Drone footage shows aftermath of devastating fire

On Friday, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea revealed the increased missing persons total at a news conference on Thursday, having put the figure at 130 just a day earlier.

Mr Honea said the original total was a partial count, and after authorities went back through all emergency calls and other reports of missing people from the past week, they came up with the new number.

The list included some who had fled the blaze and did not realise they had been reported missing, he added.

Smoke hangs over the scorched remains of Old Town Plaza following the wildfire in Paradise Credit: AP Photo/Noah Berger, File

Of the crisis last week he said: "The chaos that we were dealing with was extraordinary.

"Now we’re trying to go back out and make sure that we’re accounting for everyone."

Authorities also reported seven more fatalities, bringing the total to 63, in the deadliest wildfire in state history.

Ten years ago, as two wildfires advanced on the town of Paradise, residents jumped into their vehicles to flee and got stuck in gridlock. That led authorities to devise a staggered evacuation plan - one that they used when fire came again last week.

Investigators at Camp Fire in Magalia, California. Credit: AP

But Paradise’s carefully laid plans quickly devolved into a panicked exodus.

Some survivors said that by the time they got warnings, the flames were already extremely close, and they barely escaped with their lives. Others said they received no warnings at all.

Now authorities are facing questions over whether they took the right approach.

Reeny Victoria Breevaart, who lives in Magalia, a forested community of 11,000 people north of Paradise, said she could not receive warnings because mobile phones were not working. She also lost electrical power.

Mr Honea said evacuation orders were issued through thousands of emails, phone calls and texts in addition to social media and the use of loudspeakers:

25,643
Phone calls of evacuation orders were made.
5,447
Text messages to evacuate people were sent.
5,227
Emails of evacuation orders were sent out.

As mobile phone service went down, authorities went into neighbourhoods with bullhorns to tell people to leave.

A cadaver dog searches for victims of the Camp Fire in Paradise Credit: AP

The sheriff said: "The fact that we have thousands and thousands of people in shelters would clearly indicate that we were able to notify a significant number of people."

On Thursday, firefighters reported progress in battling the nearly 220-square-mile blaze which displaced 52,000 people and destroyed more than 9,500 homes. It was 40% contained, fire officials said.

California Army National Guard members, wearing white jumpsuits, looked for human remains in the burned rubble, among more than 450 rescue workers assigned to the task.

In Southern California, crews continued to gain ground against a blaze of more than 153 square miles which destroyed more than 500 structures in Malibu and communities.