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Thousands evacuated as California wildfire threatens coastal town, university
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08:08, October 22, 2007

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A wildfire driven by strong winds destroyed several landmark buildings in the coastal town of Malibu near Los Angeles on Sunday, and forced the evacuation of a university and 200 nearby homes.

The fire, reportedly sparked early in the morning by high-voltage power lines that fell on the road, was destroying a church, a shopping center and the famed Castle Kashan in the upscale beachside town, as firefighters from across the Los Angeles area rushed to the scene, fire officials said.

According to Los Angeles County Fire inspector Ron Haralson, 400 firefighters aided by helicopters and water-dropping aircraft were battling the blaze, which had burnt about 500 acres and led to the closure of the nearby stretch of Pacific Coast Highway.

Thousands of students at Pepperdine University near Malibu have been moved into the cafeteria in the central section of the campus, and issued gauze masks for the heavy particulate matter in the smoke, said university Jerry Derloshon.

Helicopter pictures indicate some trees on campus have burned.

Not far from the campus, the Malibu Presbyterian Church was burned to the ground in the morning, and the Malibu Colony Plaza shopping center was also reportedly catching fire.

Evacuating residents from nearby communities competed with fire trucks arriving and set up protective positions near houses. Horses, bunnies and other pets were being taken down one-lane roads out of the area.

Live television footage showed the fire burning homes along the Pacific Ocean, and city officials said those living along a 5-km stretch of beachfront homes on Malibu Road were being told to consider leaving as well.

Firefighters were also battling two other wildfires Sunday morning elsewhere in the Los Angeles area, but no homes were immediately threatened.

Source: Xinhua

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