Death toll now at 26 as wild­fires con­tinue to rav­age Cal­i­for­nia

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY ELLEN KNICKMEYER

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.

Laid waste: Scene in Santa Rosa

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.

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