California Wildfires: More Than 1,000 People Missing As Death Toll Rises

More than 1,000 people are now missing in California as the state grapples with the worst wildfires in its history.

At least 71 people have been killed and thousands of homes destroyed by the fires. One of the largest—the Camp Fire in northern California which has destroyed much of the town of Paradise—began nine days ago.

The number of Californians missing rose from 631 to 1,011 on Friday, the BBC reported.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, however, noted it was possible that the list contained duplications and therefore might be larger than the true number of missing. “I want you to understand that this is a dynamic list,” he said. “The information I am providing you is raw data and we find there is the likely possibility that the list contains duplicate names.”

Officials have also warned that many of those on the list may not know they are considered missing and might be unable to contact those who are worried about their safety. On the other hand, there may be people among the dead who have not yet been reported missing.

At least 142,000 acres have been destroyed by the Camp Fire including most of the town of Paradise, forcing the evacuation of its roughly 27,000 population. Rescue workers with cadaver dogs are still making their way through what is left of the town looking for survivors and bodies.

A total of around 47,000 people have been told to evacuate. Escapees are staying with friends and family, being housed in emergency shelters and even camping.

GettyImages-1061906506 An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on November 15, 2018 in Paradise, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The California Fire Department says it has contained around 50 percent of the Camp Fire, though warned the blaze would not be fully controlled until the end of November.

Officials have said the town of Paradise will require a “total rebuild” which could take several years, the BBC explained. Brock Long, administrator of Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the Paradise damage was “one of the worst disasters” he had ever seen.

The death toll jumped from 63 to 71 on Friday, as rescuers found seven more bodies in Paradise and an eighth in Magalia, to the north of the ravaged town. All were found inside structures, NBC News said. Officials expect the search operation to continue for several weeks.

Emergency workers are fighting a series of other fires, including the Morgan Fire in Contra Costa County near San Francisco, the Woolsey Fire in Ventura County near Los Angeles and the Hill Fire, also in Ventura County. Three more people have so far been killed in the Woolsey Fire.

It is not clear how the fires began, but investigations are underway to establish the cause. Some residents have already filed a lawsuit against a power company, claiming the Camp Fire began when a high-voltage transmission line malfunctioned. The state’s wildfire season generally runs until early fall, but the BBC reported that changing climatic conditions means the risk now extends year round.

President Donald Trump will travel to California today to see the damage and meet those affected by the blaze. The president has been criticized for blaming the fires on local government and ignoring the role of climate change.

On Twitter, he said there was “no reason for these massive deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

The president offered no evidence of explanation for his allegations. Trump was asked whether climate change was a factor in the fires while filming an interview for Fox News on Friday. He replied, “Maybe it contributes a little bit,” but maintained, “The big problem we have is management.”

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