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Death toll from California wildfires rises, Bush visits

Bush, who has declared a major disaster in a 7-county region, arrived in California to take an aerial tour.

world Updated: Oct 26, 2007 02:09 IST

Crews found two burned bodies in a gutted house, authorities said today, and flames drew perilously close to thousands of homes in Southern California's firestorm hours before a visit by President George W Bush.

Medical examiners were trying to establish the identities of the bodies found near Poway, north of San Diego, Sheriff Bill Kolender said.

Flames also have claimed the life of a 52-year-old man in Tecate. The San Diego medical examiner's office listed five other deaths as connected to the blazes because all who died were evacuees. The number of victims could rise as authorities return to neighborhoods where homes burned.

The grim announcement came as the firefighters, aided by the calming Santa Ana winds and dropping temperatures, looked to gain control of some of the most severe fires.

Bush, who has declared a major disaster in a seven-county region, arrived in California to take an aerial tour of the burn areas, accompanied by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Memories still linger of the US government's failed response to Hurricane Katrina and how it hurt Bush's standing. The tricky matter of when to time a presidential tour-- one that itself commands state and local resources-- was one the White House had to work through.

Bush, who was getting an aerial tour of the devastation wrought by blazes fanned by Santa Ana winds, was greeted on the tarmac at Marine Corps Air Station-Miramar here by Schwarzenegger and the smell of smoke.