DFA: No Filipino casualty in California wildfires

THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday that so far there were no Filipino casualties in the wildfires that are raging in Northern California's wine country.

This as the Philippines expressed sympathies to the families of those 10 people who perished in the massive wildfires.

There are around 18,000 Filipinos in Napa Valley and surrounding counties in Northern California.

"We express our sympathies to the loved ones of those who lost their lives and their homes as a result of the wildfires," Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said in a statement from New York.

"We pray that our kababayans and other residents in the affected areas be kept safe and their homes spared from the fires," said Cayetano, who will be proceeding to Washington DC to join the government economic team that will be attending the annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

He said the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco is closely monitoring the situation and is coordinating with local authorities and the Filipino Community to check on the condition of Filipinos in the affected areas.

The Consulate General reported that 15 separate fires have broken out and affected over 73,000 acres (29,500 hectares). The fires destroyed 1,500 structures and caused the evacuation of an estimated 20,000 residents. Smoke and ashes reached as far south as San Francisco and Oakland due to wind direction and gust.

"We continue to reach out to Filipino community organizations in the affected areas, particularly in the Napa and Sonoma counties, to ascertain their condition," said Consul General Henry Bensurto.

"We have also disseminated through our social media platforms the advisories issued by local and state authorities," he added.

Bensurto said windy and hot conditions from late spring through autumn cause periodic wildfires in California.

The most recent wildfire, in 2014, affected more than 134,000 acres (more than 54,000 hectares) of land. The largest wildfire in recent history was recorded in 2012, which affected 315,500 acres (almost 128,000 hectares) of land in California and Nevada. (SDR/SunStar Philippines)
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