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North California fire: Death toll at 71, more than 1,000 missing

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Washington : Recovery teams with cadaver dogs pressed on with their search for more victims in a flame-ravaged northern California town as authorities sought clues to the fate of more than 1,000 people reported missing in the deadliest wildfire in state history.

Remains of at least 71 people have been recovered so far in and around the Sierra foothills hamlet of Paradise, which was home to nearly 27,000 residents before the town was largely incinerated by the deadly Camp Fire on the night of November 8.

More than a week later, firefighters have managed to carve containment lines around 45 percent of the blaze’s perimeter, up from 35 percent a day earlier, even as the burned landscape grew slightly to 142,000 acres (57,000 hectares).

Besides the toll on human life, property losses from the blaze make it California’s most the destructive on record, posing a challenge of providing long-term shelter for many thousands of displaced residents.

With more than 12,000 homes and other structures up in smoke, many survivors of the fire have taken up temporary residence with friends and family, while others have pitched tents or were camping out of their vehicles.

More than 1,100 evacuees were being housed in 14 emergency shelters set up in churches, schools and community centres around the region, American Red Cross spokeswoman Greta Gustafson said.

Authorities said more than 47,000 people in all remain under evacuation orders in the region.

More than 450 searchers, meanwhile, combed through charred, rubble-strewn expanses of burned-out neighbourhoods looking for bodies – or anything else that might carry human DNA for identification purposes.


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International

4 dead, 43 injured after high-speed train crashes into overpass in Turkey

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ANKARA: At least four persons died and over 43 injured after a high-speed train crashed into an overpass in Turkish capital Ankara, reported the country’s media.

A video footage uploaded by Posta Gazetesi, a Turkish daily newspaper, showed mangled metal remains of the train. Emergency workers were seen rescuing people from the accident site.

The accident took place at the overpass at the Marsandiz train station, to the west of Ankara at around 6:30 am (9 am IST) as the train was travelling between Ankara and the central Turkish province of Konya.

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Pak rejects US charge over religious freedom

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Islamabad: Pakistan rejected the United States’ pronouncement about religious freedom in Pakistan as ‘politically motivated.’

In a statement, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal categorically stated Pakistan does ‘not need counsel by any individual country how to protect the rights of its minorities.’

He said besides the clear biases reflected from these designations, there are serious questions on the credentials and impartiality of the self-proclaimed jury involved in this unwarranted exercise.

The spokesperson said Pakistan was a multi-religious and pluralistic society where people of diverse faiths and denominations live together.

Around 4 percent of our total population comprises citizens belonging to Christian, Hindu, Buddhists and Sikh faiths.

He said ensuring equal treatment of minorities and their enjoyment of human rights without any discrimination is the cardinal principle of the constitution of Pakistan.

“Special seats have been reserved for minorities in the Parliament to ensure their adequate representation and voice in the legislation process,” he said.

Dr Faisal said a vibrant and independent National Commission on Human Rights was functioning to address concerns on violation of the rights of minorities.

Foreign Office spokesperson pointed out that successive governments have made it a priority that rights of citizens belonging to minority faiths are protected as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution.

The higher judiciary of the country has made several landmark decisions to protect the properties and places of worships of minorities.

He said Pakistan had devised legal and administrative mechanisms to safeguard the rights of its citizens.

The spokesperson regretted the proponents of human rights worldwide close their eyes on “systematic persecution of minorities subjected to alien domination and foreign occupation such as in the Kashmir.”

He said an honest self-introspection would also have been timely to know the causes of exponential rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the US.

The United States clarified on Wednesday that although Pakistan remains on the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list, there will be no additional sanctions other than those already placed on Pakistan owing to ‘national interest.’

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US aiding and abetting Saudi crimes in Yemen: Iran

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Tehran : Addressing the families of Iranian martyrs in a meeting in Tehran , Ayatollah Khamenei pointed out the Saudi regime’s failures in the war it has been waging against Yemen with Washington’s support.

The Leader said the Saudis have extended a hand of friendship to the enemies of Islam.

“They (the Saudis) thought they would gain control [of Yemen] in a matter of days or weeks. [But] the farther they go, the harder they will fall down and the more stinging will be the blow that they will receive,” the Leader noted.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Ayatollah Khamenei pointed to Washington’s long-running enmity towards the Iranian nation.

“If you want to know America’s true face, look at its current president and statesmen because they have vividly and openly laid bare the ugly and hateful face that is typical of American statesmen,” the Leader said.

Ayatollah Khamenei urged the Iranian nation and authorities to remember that the US will never stop plotting against the country, emphasizing that the Israeli regime and the reactionary regional states are in cahoots with Washington in its hostile agenda against the Islamic Republic.

The Leader, however, asserted, “Of course, we are stronger. They have not managed to do anything so far, and will never be able to do a damn thing either.”

Over the past years, the Leader said, the US has consistently sought, but failed, to restore the domination it enjoyed over Iran prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and to bring the country under its tutelage similar to certain weak regional states, which Washington has branded as its “milk cows.”

The leader further underlined Washington’s stepped-up campaign against Iran over the past two years, saying the Americans sought to increase pressure on the country through sanctions and measures to disrupt its national security with the aim of creating division and conflict among various groups.

“They were planning to lead some to the streets and had even referred to it as ‘the hot summer.’ To the enemies’ dismay, [however], this past summer was one of the best ever,” the Leader noted.

The Leader dismissed claims by certain US officials that the Islamic Revolution will not get to celebrate its anniversary in 2019, stressing, “The Iranian nation is standing in all strength and will, by divine grace, celebrate the 40th anniversary of the revolution in far greater splendor this year.”

The Leader said by dubbing the US “the Great Satan,” the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini, united the world’s monotheists and fair-minded nations against Washington.

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