Donald Trump: Mismanagement, not climate change caused fires

Updated: Nov 19, 2018, 10:24 IST | Agencies | Paradise

US President keeps earlier controversy alive just days after threatening to cut federal funding to California over its alleged 'gross mismanagement' of forests

Donald Trump (C) looks on with Governor of California Jerry Brown (R) and Lieutenant Governor of California, Gavin Newson. Pic/AFP
Donald Trump (C) looks on with Governor of California Jerry Brown (R) and Lieutenant Governor of California, Gavin Newson. Pic/AFP

President Donald Trump expressed sadness Saturday at the devastation caused by fires in a California town, but persisted in his controversial claim that forest mismanagement is responsible for the tragedy which has left 76 dead and more than 1,000 listed as missing.

"This is very sad," Trump said after surveying the remains of Paradise, where nearly the only people out on the road were emergency services workers, surrounded by the twisted remains of a community incinerated by the flames.

In Chico, near Paradise, Trump met with firefighters and other first responders at makeshift headquarters for emergency services. High-ranking fire officials recounted how quickly the fire spread, complicating evacuation efforts, as Trump studied a huge map spread across a table showing where fires continue to burn.

Keeping alive an earlier controversy, Trump repeated his claim that California had mismanaged its forests and was largely to blame for the fires. "I'm committed to make sure that we get all of this cleaned out and protected, (we've) got to take care of the forest, it's very important," Trump said in Paradise. Days ago Trump threatened to cut federal funding to California over its alleged "gross mismanagement" of forests.

Brian Rice, president of California Professional Firefighters, called Trump's earlier remarks "ill-informed," noting the federal government had cut spending on forest management. Asked if he believed climate change had played any role in the fires, Trump again pointed to the forest "management factor" and insisted that his "strong opinion" remained unchanged.

Death toll at 76
Northern California crews battling the wildfire were bracing for strong winds creating the potential to erode gains they have made in containing a disaster that has killed at least 76 and levelled a town. Even as hundreds of searchers sift through the rubble in the town of Paradise looking for the dead, nearly 1,300 people remain unaccounted for more than a week after the fire.

Khashoggi report to be out by Tuesday
US President Donald Trump has said he had spoken with the CIA chief on the agency's assessment of the killing of Washing Post columnist and journalist Jamal Khashoggi and that there will be a "very full report" . Trump said the report would be released on Tuesday. It will address what "we think the overall impact was and who caused it, and who did it," he said.

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