63 Dead, 631 Missing in Deadliest, Most Destructive Fire in California History
The death toll from the catastrophic Camp Fire—by far the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history—has now risen to 63, with 631 people still unaccounted for, the Huffington Post reported Friday.
The Butte County Sheriff's Office announced on Thursday that the death toll had risen from Wednesday's figure of 56 after the remains of seven more people were discovered in the wreckage.
Press Release #ButteSheriff #CampFire https://t.co/5lhfQgSN2F— Butte County Sheriff (@Butte County Sheriff)1542345435.0
The number of missing made a big jump from the 130 people officials said were unaccounted for on Wednesday. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters at a news briefing that the increase was a result of officials looking tirelessly through reports after Wednesday's announcement, and many of the missing could be safely in shelters.
"The reason that that number went up is because after they went up, [emergency officials] didn't stop working, they continued to work into the night," Honea told reporters, according to The Huffington Post. "I'm fine with that update, because I would rather get that information out than wait too much longer to do that."
Honea told people to check the list of those reported missing to make sure they aren't on it.
"I want you to understand that there are a lot of people displaced and there are a lot of people who don't know we're looking for them," Honea said.
The Camp Fire has burned more than 11,800 structures so far, including 9,700 homes. The destruction has displaced more than 52,000 people in an area already facing a housing shortage, The Sacramento Bee reported.
Here is the @ParadisePost, the newspaper we can’t deliver, so we are dropping bundles off at evacuation centers.… https://t.co/5bTPnogFVF— David Little (@David Little)1542325957.0
Local officials told The Sacramento Bee that the fire could force migration comparable to what happened during the Dust Bowl during the 1930s, though on a smaller scale.
When asked if Butte County faced a humanitarian crisis, the executive director of the county's housing office Ed Mayer said, "We're on the edge."
Mayer said that 6,000 to 7,000 households were likely to be permanently displaced by the fire. The county has the means to rehouse only 800 to 1,000 households permanently, and officials are overwhelmed when it comes to short-term options.
"We could make the choice to put them in temporary (shelters) to try to absorb those households for three to five years, meaning refugee camps and trying to keep our community together. That's one choice," Mayer said. "The other choice is we say, 'We can't do it, we don't have the ability (to find shelters) and go fend for yourselves.'"
Conditions in the temporary shelters that do exist also aren't entirely healthy. A norovirus outbreak has sickened 141 people at four Butte County shelters, the county announced Thursday.
News Release: Norovirus/Gastrointestinal Illness in Butte County Shelters https://t.co/GXbVLb0n0S https://t.co/xjvOjf2pJU— Butte County, CA (@Butte County, CA)1542315179.0
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it did not yet have a plan to house the survivors of the fire, but the fact that President Donald Trump signed a major emergency declaration for the fire Monday means that federal funds can now flow towards recovery efforts.
"We don't have a housing plan right this second," FEMA spokeswoman Brandi Richard said Tuesday, according to The Sacramento Bee. "That's something the state and local officials and FEMA teams are working on."
The fire has now burned 141,000 acres and is 40 percent contained, according to the most recent Cal Fire update.
#CampFire [update] Pulga Road at Camp Creek Road near Jarbo Gap (Butte County) is now 141,000 acres and 40% contain… https://t.co/xvVz5R7nKn— CAL FIRE (@CAL FIRE)1542338941.0
The dry, windy conditions that fanned the flames are expected to persist, though National Weather Service meteorologist Aviva Braun said there could be rain by the end of next week, the Huffington Post reported.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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