Wednesday 18 September 2019

Death toll from California wildfires rises to 71 after eight more bodies found, while more than 1,000 on missing list

An air tanker drops water in Simi Valley earlier this week (Ringo HW Chiu/AP)
An air tanker drops water in Simi Valley earlier this week (Ringo HW Chiu/AP)
Smoke hangs over the scorched remains of Old Town Plaza following the wildfire in Paradise (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
Search and rescue teams are continuing to hunt for bodies or survivors (AP Photo/John Locher)
Scorched cars line the road in Paradise, California (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Grim task: Members of the California National Guard take a break as they search for human remains in Paradise, California. Photo: AP
Cal Fire firefighters and search and rescue volunteers comb through a house destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Investigators recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp Fire in Magalia (John Locher/AP)
A car destroyed by the Camp Fire is seen in Paradise, California, U.S. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
An electricity pole damaged by the Camp Fire lies near a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) truck in Paradise, California, U.S., November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Travis Lee Hogan, of Paradise, comforts his mother, Bridgett Hogan, while they stay at a makeshift evacuation center for people displaced by the Camp Fire in Chico, California, U.S., November 15, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
A couple wear masks while walking at Fisherman’s Wharf through smoke and haze from wildfires (Eric Risberg/AP)
Rubble remains where mobile homes once stood at the Camp Fire in Paradise, California (AP Photo/John Locher)
Karen Atkinson, of Marin, searches for human remains with her cadaver dog, Echo, in a van destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
A sign is seen outside of Paradise Cinemas in the aftermath of the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Kathleen Ronayne and Sudhin Thanawala

More than 1,000 people are now on a list of those unaccounted for following a deadly Northern California wildfire - but authorities have stressed it does not mean all of them are missing.

The death toll was raised to 71 on Friday after eight more bodies were found, while the missing persons list grew from 631 on Thursday night to 1,011.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the list was dynamic and could easily contain duplicate names and unreliable spellings, as well as some who fled the blaze and do not realise they have been reported missing.

Some of the people among the ever-evolving tally have been confirmed as dead by family and friends on social media.

Others have been found safe, but authorities have not yet marked them as such.

In last year's catastrophic wildfires in California wine country, Sonoma County authorities at one point listed more than 2,000 people as missing. But they slowly whittled down the number.

In the end, 44 people died in several counties.

The wildfire this time all but razed the town of Paradise, population 27,000, and heavily damaged the outlying communities of Magalia and Concow, destroying 9,700 houses and 144 apartment buildings, authorities said.

Firefighters were gaining ground against the blaze, which blackened 222 square miles. It was 45% contained and posed no immediate threat to populated areas.

Searches were also continuing for those who perished and those who survived the deadliest US wildfire in a century, ahead of a planned visit by president Donald Trump.

Search and rescue teams are continuing to hunt for bodies or survivors (AP Photo/John Locher)
Search and rescue teams are continuing to hunt for bodies or survivors (AP Photo/John Locher)

Some survivors resent that Mr Trump took to Twitter two days after the disaster to blame the wildfires on poor forest mismanagement. He threatened to withhold federal payments from California.

"If you insult people, then you go visit them, how do you think you're going to be accepted? You're not going to have a parade," Maggie Crowder, of Magalia, said on Thursday.

But Stacy Lazzarino, who voted for Mr Trump, said it would be good for the president to see the devastation up close, adding: "I think by maybe seeing it he's going to be like 'Oh, my goodness', and it might start opening people's eyes."

In a Fox News interview on the eve of his visit, the president repeated his criticism. Asked if he thought climate change contributed to the fires, he said: "Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management."

In Southern California, meanwhile, more residents were being allowed back into their homes near Los Angeles after a blaze torched an area the size of Denver and destroyed more than 600 homes and other structures. The blaze was 69% contained, authorities said.

At least three deaths were reported.

Cal Fire firefighters and search and rescue volunteers comb through a house destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Cal Fire firefighters and search and rescue volunteers comb through a house destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

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