Since June this year, wildfires have fiercely swept across the state of California, USA. The latest, beginning in early November, has already claimed dozens of lives and hundreds of homes. More than 500 people remain missing.
For months, residents in the state have had to flee their homes, sometimes with only minutes to spare before death. Firefighters in the area have been working around the clock to save people and animals, and to contain the spreading blaze.
Wildfires, whilst not uncommon in hot climates, are becoming much more frequent globally due to global warming. As more greenhouse gases, like CO2, are being released into the atmosphere, they build up and warm our planet.
According to the USA’s National Park Services, 90 percent of wildfires are begun by humans through burning debris, discarding cigarettes, or intentional arson. However, there is no doubt that global warming is helping the fires to burn longer and become far more dangerous than before.
Whilst firefighters have nearly contained the current blazes, search-and-rescue workers, along with cadaver dogs, continue to sweep the area in search of missing people.
However, with the rain beginning to fall last week, a new threat is posed to the area: mudslides.
The National Weather Service believes that 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) of rain will fall in the coming days. Whilst these rains do much to help the firefighters calm the raging flames, they can hinder search-and-rescue efforts.
Mudslides can be severely dangerous, coming down quickly and suffocating everything in their path. Around 20 people are killed every year in American landslides, and many more die around the world.. Mudslides can also sweep away remains or kill those still missing, with terrifying speed.
‘What we’re looking for, in many respects, are very small bone fragments so, as we go forward, it’s certainly possible that not all of them will be located,’ said Sheriff Kory Honea of Butte County, California. He warned that not every missing person may be found.