California asks US for $7.4bn to rebuild after wildfires

California governor Jerry Brown and other politicians have asked the US government for US$7.4bn to help rebuild after a cluster of fires tore through the heart of wine country.

The blazes killed more than 40 people and left thousands without housing.

In a letter to the White House, Mr Brown joined California's two US senators and 39 members of its 52-member congressional delegation to urge president Donald Trump and Congress to quickly adopt a disaster-related appropriations measure to support the state's recovery.

Mr Brown said the funding would go towards cleanup and programs to support housing, transportation, agriculture, environmental protection and other services for those affected by the fires.

A series of blazes that started in Northern California on the night of October 8 killed at least 43 people and destroyed about 8,900 homes and other buildings.

At the peak, thousands of firefighters battled 21 blazes that burned simultaneously.

Officials have not yet assessed all the damage and effects of the fires, but the governor's office and the affected counties determined that $7.4bn in federal funding is needed to help California recover, the letter said.

The wildfires significantly damaged farmland, rangeland and watersheds, and more than a third of the funding requested, $3.1bn, would go toward helping agricultural industries bounce back, including affected wineries, California officials said.

"The full economic impact to the agricultural, tourism, hospitality, and wine industries is still not known," the letter said.

"Nine California wineries were destroyed and 21 were damaged in the nation's most prominent wine-making region."

Congress last month approved $576.5m in aid for wildfires earlier this summer in California and the west of the United States.

It also has approved billions in relief funding to help states affected by hurricanes and other weather-related disasters this year.

Mr Trump pledged aid for California fire victims on October 10, saying he had told Mr Brown that "the federal government will stand with the people of California".

Only one Republican member of California's congressional delegation signed the letter released on Friday: Ed Royce of Orange County.

Mr Brown said he has asked the California Department of Finance to expedite doling out $41.5m to support the immediate needs of victims not eligible for federal aid.

During the wildfires last month, Mr Brown declared a state of emergency for the Northern California counties of Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Yuba, Butte, Lake, Mendocino and Nevada as well as Orange County in the south.

- AP


KEYWORDS: California

 

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