Connect with us

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Fire-fighters are working 72-hour shifts but say it is not enough to contain the blazes

US President Donald Trump has declared that wildfires burning through homes and devastating precious forestry in California are a major disaster and he has released federal aid.

More than 14,000 fire-fighters are battling 585 fires that have now burnt nearly one million acres (400,000 ha).

Forecast high winds are threatening to drive flames into more populated areas as foul air blankets the state.

At least six people have died and thousands have evacuated.

Most of the destruction has been caused by three large fires complexes in mountainous and wooded rural areas.

On Saturday Governor Gavin Newsom said the SCU Lightening Complex fire south and east of San Francisco is the third-largest in California’s history.

Video tweeted by the governor showed burnt tree stumps against the reddened fumes-filled sky and plumes of white smoke rising from ash-laden ground.

An evacuation order on Saturday extended to thousands of people in the Bay area near San Jose and warned others to be prepared to abandon their homes at short notice.

Exhausted fire-fighters continue to battle the flames, with some working 72-hour shifts in the dangerous, hot conditions reports AP news agency. “They’re scrambling for bodies” to help fight the fires, an official in the city of Fresno told Reuters news agency.

In California’s oldest state park, flames scorched redwood trees that began their lives more than 2,000 years ago. The historic visitor centre of Big Basin State Park was burnt to the ground and officials say some trees, which tower as high as 330ft (100 metres), have fallen as the area was “extensively damaged”.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Park officials fear that redwoods, the world’s tallest trees, have fallen in the fires

The state faces are more acute shortage of personnel than usual – the coronavirus pandemic has depleted a fire-fighting corps made up of prisoners, which has helped the state battle blazes since World War Two, due to early releases from jail.

At least 43 people including fire-fighters have been injured, and hundreds of buildings have burned down and thousands more are threatened.

After doubling in size on Friday, the fires continued to grow moderately on Saturday and fire-fighters made some progress in containing the flames.

More than 12,000 dry lightning strikes started the blazes last week during a historic heat wave in which thermometers in Death Valley National Park reached what could be the highest ever temperature reliably recorded.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Hundreds of buildings have burnt including this historic 157-year old farmhouse

The largest wildfire, called the LNU Lightening complex, is in the prominent wine-growing areas of Napa and Sonoma north of San Francisco and is just 15% contained, CalFire said on Saturday.

Further south in Santa Cruz county, 115 homes have been destroyed and some residents evacuated.

“I left with my clothes … two guitars and a dog,” one evacuee in Santa Cruz told CNN affiliate KGO.

Fire-fighters dug a fireline around the University of California Santa Cruz campus as flames came within a mile of the buildings and surrounding area.

Gov Newsom has requested help from as far afield as Australia and Canada. Fire-fighters, engines and surveillance planes raced in from US states including Oregon, New Mexico and Texas.

Although California is used to wildfire, the governor called the fires unlike anything the state had seen before. “If you don’t believe in climate change, come to California,” he tweeted on Saturday.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Fires have burned through parts of California’s wine-producing regions

With more than 650,000 coronavirus cases, California also has the highest number of infections in the US, and some evacuees have said they are afraid to go to emergency shelters.

US agencies have updated disaster preparedness and evacuation guidance in light of Covid-19. People who may be required to flee have been to told to carry at least two face masks per person, as well as hand sanitiser, soap and disinfectant wipes.

Here are some key guidelines for protecting yourself against Covid-19 if you must evacuate to a shelter:

  • Wash your hands often
  • Keep six feet of distance from anyone not among your household
  • Wear a face covering when possible, and if possible, wash it regularly
  • Avoid sharing food and drinks
  • Frequently disinfect your area in the shelter (including toys and electronics)

Emergency shelters are enforcing social distancing rules and mask wearing, and have even given individual tents to families to self-isolate. Some counties are seeking to set up separate shelters for sick evacuees or anyone who is found to have a high temperature.

Officials say people should consider sheltering with family and friends.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Evacuation centres, including at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, must also enforce social distancing rules

Officials also advise people to remain indoors due to the poor air quality outside.

California is also facing electricity shortages, which have caused rolling blackouts for thousands of customers. Officials have appealed for residents to use less power or risk further cuts.

Satellite images show smoke blanketing nearly all of California, as well most of Nevada and southern Idaho.

1598166236 190 California wildfires Trump declares major disaster

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media caption‘I’m sorry to tell you that your house is gone’



Source link

0
Continue Reading

Politics

Joe Biden: Covid vaccination in US will not be mandatory

115805250 mediaitem115805246

Mr Biden, and state governors who would be on the front lines of any such mandate, might prefer to target only certain segments of the population more at risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19. For instance, employers could be encouraged to require healthcare and nursing home workers to be immunised, and most children already must have up-to-date shot records before attending public or private schools.

Source link

0
Continue Reading

Politics

India’s Ranjitsinh Disale wins 2020 Global Teacher Prize and splits it with runners-up

201204101350 worlds best teacher scli intl 2020 super tease

The award, which is run by the Varkey Foundation in partnership with UNESCO, celebrates “exceptional” teachers who have made an outstanding contribution to their profession.

Ranjitsinh Disale, a teacher at Zilla Parishad Primary School, in the village of Paritewadi in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, was chosen as winner from more than 12,000 nominations and applications, from over 140 countries around the world.

The award recognized his efforts to promote girls’ education at the school, whose pupils are mostly from tribal communities.

The Global Teacher Prize said he learned the local language of the village in order to translate class textbooks into his pupils’ mother tongue.

He also created unique QR codes on the textbooks to give students access to audio poems, video lectures, stories and assignments, greatly improving school attendance. His QR technology is now being rolled out more widely across India.

The British actor and TV host Stephen Fry announced Disale as the winner at a virtual ceremony broadcast from the Natural History Museum in London on Thursday.

Rather than keeping all his winnings, Disale told Fry in an interview that he would share the prize with the other nine finalists, giving them $55,000 each — the first time anyone has done so in the award’s six-year history.

He told Fry: “I believe that if I share this prize money with nine teachers it means I can scale up their work. Their incredible work is still worthy… If I share the prize money with the rest of the teachers they will get a chance to continue their work… and we can reach out and lighten the lives of as many students as we can.”

His actions drew praise from around the world, including from the Dalai Lama, who said on Twitter and in a statement published online that he admired Disale for sharing the money.

“Educating young children, especially from poor and needy backgrounds is perhaps the best way to help them as individuals, and actively contributes to creating a better world,” he said.

The award’s nine runners-up are teachers working in the United States, Britain, Vietnam, Nigeria, South Africa, Italy, South Korea, Malaysia and Brazil.



Source link

0
Continue Reading

Politics

Pelosi eyes combining Covid aid with mammoth spending deal

image

Pelosi said the $908 billion proposal released this week by a centrist group of Senate and House members helped restart the stimulus talks, which fell apart just before the election after months of dragging on with little real movement.

“There is momentum — there is momentum with the action that the senators and House members in a bipartisan way have taken,” Pelosi said Friday, in the latest sign that negotiators are closing in on a deal. “The tone of our conversations is one that is indicative of the decision to get the job done.”

President-elect Joe Biden on Friday said he’s “encouraged” by the $908 billion proposal, framing it as the type of bipartisan work that he hopes to foster as president. He cautioned that “any package passed in the lame duck session is not going to be enough overall.”

But hurdles remain. Government funding runs out in just one week, and there are still a sizable number of issues impeding an agreement on a massive spending package that would increase agency budgets for the rest of the fiscal year.

The sheer number of outstanding items at such a late stage makes it increasingly likely that congressional negotiators will require a brief stopgap spending bill to complete their work before leaving for the holidays. Such a decision could be made early next week if lawmakers fail to make significant progress over the weekend.

Pelosi demurred when asked about the possibility of a short-term stopgap to buy more time for talks, and dismissed the need for a longer term continuing resolution that would extend current government funding into early next year.

“We will take the time that we need,” Pelosi said, while acknowledging that a number of issues remain, including some outside of appropriators’ jurisdiction.

“Don’t worry about a date,” she added.

While appropriators in both chambers remain optimistic that they’ll finish their work before the holidays, Republicans and Democrats are still swapping offers and arguing over details, kicking some of the most difficult items up to congressional leaders.

For example, a House Democratic aide close to the talks said Republicans want to scrub any mentions of Covid-19 from the omnibus package entirely. Earlier this year, House Democrats added coronavirus relief to their slate of fiscal 2021 appropriations bills, while Senate Republicans have insisted that pandemic aid remain totally separate from annual appropriations measures.

Republicans are also objecting to funding for research on reducing racial and ethnic inequalities in the justice system, in addition to language that would require the Capitol Police to report on policies and procedures on eliminating unconscious bias and racial profiling during training, the Democratic aide said.

Republicans, meanwhile, are accusing Democrats of holding up omnibus talks by insisting on the removal of two Interior-Environment policy riders that have been included in annual spending bills for years. The provisions involve protections for the greater sage-grouse, in addition to a provision related to the carbon neutrality of forest biomass.

“Dredging these up right now is beyond counterproductive,” a GOP aide familiar with the talks said Thursday night.

Funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall also remains a perennial sticking point — Senate Republicans have proposed $2 billion for fiscal 2021, which began on Oct. 1. House Democrats have proposed no extra cash.

Lawmakers have also disagreed on detention beds for detained migrants in recent days, although Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) — the top Senate Democrat who oversees funding for the Department of Homeland Security — said Thursday that issue may get solved without the help of leadership.

Also in question is whether the White House will ultimately support a package that classifies billions of dollars in veterans’ health care spending as “emergency” spending outside of strict budget limits. Both House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey and Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby are moving forward with their negotiations assuming that’s the case, since the White House has previously signed off on such an arrangement.

Pelosi on Friday also said that whatever coronavirus relief they include in the government funding bill will not be the last time Congress addresses the ongoing pandemic, which continues to devastate the U.S., killing more than 275,000 Americans and causing a sharp downturn in the economy. The U.S. saw the deadliest day ever on Thursday, with Covid-19 fatalities exceeding 2,700.

“President-elect Biden has said that this package would be, just at best, just a start. And that’s how we see it as well,” Pelosi said.

The speaker also defended her decision to hold out for months, demanding a larger deal in the ballpark of $2 trillion or more, only to agree to negotiate this smaller package now. McConnell, similarly, refused to come off his much smaller baseline over the summer — pushing a $500 billion package — resulting in a standoff between congressional leaders.

“That was not a mistake, it was a decision,” Pelosi told reporters, saying the dynamics have significantly shifted since the election of Biden and the quicker than expected vaccine development. “That is a total game changer — a new president and a vaccine.”

With cautious optimism about the prospect of passing some fiscal stimulus to buoy the American economy during a bleak pandemic winter, lawmakers remain hopeful that Congress will pull it together before leaving Washington, despite lingering omnibus headaches.

“You know this place — turns on a dime,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who was elected by the Democratic caucus on Thursday as the next Appropriations chair.

Sarah Ferris contributed to this story.

Source link

0
Continue Reading

Trending