Mon, 10 Dec 2018
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Pittsburgh

Scores missing, toll rises in California's deadliest fire

By Sheetal Sukhija, Pittsburgh News
17 Nov 2018, 06:32 GMT+10

CALIFORNIA, U.S. - Over the last two days, as the Camp Fire continued to spread and claim more lives in Northern California, authorities declared that it had now become the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the history of the state.

The Camp Fire has been burning for days now, after emergingin the foothills of Butte Countys Sierra Nevada mountains, about 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco.

Two days after rescue efforts were launched in Northern California, authorities confirmed that the death toll had risen to at least 63 people consumed by the flames.

As the fire continued to rage on Thursday, the Butte County Sheriff's office said that the list of those reported missing in the wildfire had risen to 631, tripling in size in less than two days.

Further, the Sheriff's office confirmed that while the list of missing people is expected to continue to fluctuate, the death toll has recorded a confirmed rise over the last few days.

Meanwhile, by Thursday, the California Fire Department said that the Camp Fire blaze was 40 percent contained.

Authorities have refrained from identifying an official cause for the fire.

However, scores of firefighters continued to engage in plans to try and douse the fiery blaze.

The fire has already burned through over 145,000 acres and currently, about 9,400 firefighters are battling wildfires across the state.

It has consumed the entire town of Paradise, leaving nearly 10,000 homes completely destroyed.

According to officials, the fire is not expected to be fully contained until the end of November.

Addressing reporters at a news conference on Thursday evening, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea stressed, "I want you to understand that the chaos we were dealing with was extraordinary."

He pointed out that the number of unaccounted-for people is likely to keep shifting.

Sheriff Honea said that they were resolving existing cases but noted that new calls have continued to come from worried people looking for their friends and relatives.

The county officials later released the updated list and pointed out to journalists, that a majority of those missing were elderly - with several of them being in their late 80s and 90s.

Sheriff Honea issued an appeal to the public as he released the updated list and said, "If you look at that list and see your name, or the name of a friend or loved one, please call to let us know."

Later on Thursday, Chief fire department official from the California Fire Department, Ken Pimlott said in a statement, "We continue to engage in the fire fight. We continue to keep our eye on the ball."

Further, fire department officials said that they are simultaneously battling several other fires, including the Woolsey Fire in Ventura County near Los Angeles.

The fire has covered nearly 100,000 acres and is 62 percent contained.

Meanwhile, another smaller fire is burning in Ventura County - the Hill Fire, which covers 4,530 acres and is 99 percent contained.

The fire department said that it is also battling the Morgan Fire in Contra Costa County, near San Francisco, which covers 20 acres and is currently 60 percent contained.

In a separate statement, Brock Long, administrator of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said that the damage to Paradise town was "one of the worst disasters" he had ever seen.

Meanwhile, the White House said that the U.S. President Donald Trump would be traveling to California on Saturday to survey the damage.

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