Smoking rubble, cars reduced to carcasses: Californian firefighters were still fighting against devastating fires that killed at least nine people and destroyed thousands of homes on Saturday, with little hope of controlling the various disasters in the coming days.
More than 250,000 people have been ordered to evacuate their homes in a vast area near the capital of this western state of the United States, Sacramento, and in the popular resort town of Malibu, in the south of California.
So far, the bodies of nine people have been found in Paradise alone, in Butte County, north of Sacramento.
Since Thursday morning, more than 6,700 buildings, for the majority of the houses, there were devoured by the fire baptized "Camp Fire", now become the most destructive ever recorded in California.
A dozen kilometers around Paradise, the sky was obscured by acrid smoke, and the sun was hardly visible.
The inhabitants fled the danger, while on the road that leads to the city center lay wrecked cars. The electric poles were gnawed by fire.
"Only a few farmers have come back to see what their livestock is like," a policewoman told AFP.
The fire has so far consumed more than 40,000 hectares and is controlled by only 20%, according to CalFire, the California Fire Department. Three of the more than 3,200 firefighters deployed were injured.
– Destruction "incredible" –
"The whole lower part of Paradise is a prey to the flames right now. Not a single house will remain standing. I collapsed, "testified on KIEM TV Kevin Winstead, a resident in a nearby town, Winstead.
The authorities estimate that it will take three weeks to control the flames in this area of the foothills of Sierra Nevada.
"The magnitude of the destruction we've seen is truly incredible and heart-breaking," said Mark Ghilarducci of the California governor's emergency services office on Friday.
President Donald Trump, traveling to France for the centenary ceremonies of the First World War armistice, has been harsh on California, which has just elected a Democratic governor.
"There is no reason for these huge fires in California, deadly and expensive, except that the management of forests is so bad," tweeted Saturday the US president.
"Billions of dollars are donated every year, so many lives are lost, all because of poor forest management. Remedy now, otherwise there will be no more federal payments! ", He added.
In Southern California, where more fires are raging, 200,000 people, including all of Malibu, near Los Angeles, home to many celebrities, have been ordered to evacuate because of the Woolsey fire. which has devoured nearly 28,000 hectares and destroyed at least 150 houses since Thursday afternoon.
– Filming sites destroyed –
"I've lived in Malibu for 23 years, since I was born, and I saw flames coming from the mountains above the house," AFP Heili Hoffmann told AFP. "I felt the trees burn, and I knew I had to go."
Several personalities like Kim Kardashian or Alyssa Milano have also had to leave their homes.
"I heard that the flames had reached our property but the fire has now been contained. I pray that the winds are in our favor, "Kim Kardashian tweeted.
Actor Martin Sheen, briefly missing by his son Charlie, was evacuating.
"We're fine, we're in Zuma Beach, we're probably going to sleep in the car tonight," Martin Sheen told Fox News 11.
The fire also destroyed movie locations used for hundreds of productions, including the HBO series "Westworld".
Another home rages in Ventura County, near Thousand Oaks, where a former soldier opened fire on Wednesday night in a city bar, killing twelve people before committing suicide.
California has been hit since the end of 2017 by many deadly fires, made particularly violent by drought and winds.
burs-jt / ska / wd / thm / cls