Death toll now at 26 as wildfires continue to ravage California
SEARCH-and-rescue teams have started looking for bodies in parts of California wine country devastated by wildfires as the number of dead reached 26.
Some 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed by the blazes, which could become the deadliest and most destructive in the US state’s history.
Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said officials were still investigating hundreds of reports of missing people and that recovery teams would soon begin conducting “targeted searches” for specific residents at their lastknown addresses.
“We have found bodies almost completely intact and we have found bodies that were nothing more than ash and bones,” Mr Giordano said.
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Some remains have been identified using medical devices that turned up in the scorched heaps that were once homes.
Metal implants, such as artificial hips, have ID numbers that helped identify the person, he said. Winds of up to 45mph were expected in areas north of San Francisco and stronger, more erratic gusts were forecast for today. Those conditions could erase modest gains made by firefighters.
More than 8,000 of them were battling the blazes and more manpower and equipment was pouring in from across the country and from as far as Australia and Canada, officials said.
The ferocious fires that started on Sunday levelled entire residential areas in parts of Sonoma and Napa counties.
In anticipation of the next round of flames, entire cities evacuated, leaving their streets empty.
Fire officials are investigating whether downed power lines or other utility failures could have sparked the devastation.