natural disaster

California wildfires force two lakh people to evacuate, fourth blaze erupts north of San Diego

So far, no civilian fatalities have been reported, but three firefighters were injured.

At least two lakh people were evacuated from their homes in Southern California in the United States, as four massive wildfires fanned by gusting winds engulfed the region, Reuters reported. More evacuations are likely as the California Fire Department has asked people to be “ready to go”.

The department has forecast dangerous conditions till Sunday.

The region’s westward hot and dry Santa Ana winds, which blow from the California desert, are fanning the four biggest fires from Los Angeles up the Pacific coast to Santa Barbara County.

The Thomas Fire northwest of Los Angeles grew to 1.15 lakh acres on Friday, from 96,000 acres a day earlier, and destroyed 439 structures. More than 2,600 firefighters are battling the blaze, which has been contained only 5%.

North of San Diego, another blaze called the Lilac Fire (pictured above) grew from 10 acres to 3,600 acres in just a few hours on Thursday, Cal Fire said. California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for the San Diego County, as the blaze destroyed 20 structures and led to roads being shut.

The other fires, including the Skirball Fire, reached the wealthy enclave of Bel-Air in West Los Angeles on Thursday.

The 101 freeway, the main coastal route towards the north from Los Angeles, was shut, while hundreds of schools were told to stay closed for the rest of the week because of the smoke from the wildfires, The New York Times reported.

So far, no civilian casualties or fatalities have been reported, but the Los Angeles Fire Department said three firefighters were injured.

The Los Angeles Police Department and the fire department have been keeping residents updated on Twitter. “LAPD working to save every Californian, pets included,” said one tweet, with a photo of a police officer in a respirator rescuing a cat.

The Los Angeles County Animal Shelter said it was hosting 184 pets, including llamas, donkeys and horses. According to some reports, 29 horses were burned to death on Tuesday at a ranch.

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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.


During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.