Accessibility links

4 Bodies Found in Fire-Ravaged Area in Southern California

Authorities in California say they have discovered the bodies of four people near the U.S.-Mexico border where one of several raging wildfires broke out earlier this week.

The badly burned bodies of three men and one woman were found Thursday east of the southern city of San Diego. Authorities believe the victims were illegal immigrants who were overcome by flames as they tried to cross the border.

Also Thursday, the bodies of a man and woman were found in a home in the San Diego area. At least five other people died during evacuations.

The fires in southern California have destroyed more than 161,000 hectares and nearly 2,000 homes across seven counties.

President Bush toured the area Thursday with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and pledged that federal money will be made available to those who lost their homes.

Officials say the cost of the damage will likely be more than $1 billion, much of it in hard-hit San Diego.

President Bush declared the fires a "major disaster" on Wednesday, a move that makes federal emergency funds available to the affected areas.

The hot, gusty winds and high temperatures that fueled the fires have receded, allowing firefighters to gain the advantage in beating back and extinguishing the flames.

At least one fire has been declared an arson. The governor's office and two federal agencies have promised a $150,000 reward for information leading to the person who set a blaze known as the Santiago fire.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.