HUN­DREDS MISS­ING AS WILD­FIRE DEATH TOLL RISES

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - KATH­LEEN RON­AYNE AND SUDHIN THANAWALA news­[email protected]­line.co.uk

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.

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. Yes­ter­day, the Queen sent her best wishes to those af­fected by the flames.

In a state­ment, she said: “Prince Philip and I of­fer our deep­est sym­pa­thies to the peo­ple of Cal­i­for­nia, who con­tinue to suf­fer from the dev­as­tat­ing fires across the state.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the fam­ily and friends of the vic­tims, and to all those who have lost their homes and liveli­hoods. I pay trib­ute to the courage and ded­i­ca­tion of the US emer­gency ser­vices and the vol­un­teers that have pro­vided sup­port.”

TERRY CHEA

Vol­un­teer res­cue work­ers search for hu­man re­mains in the rub­ble of burned homes in Par­adise, Cal­i­for­nia

NOAH BERGER

This ae­rial photo shows the re­mains of homes lev­elled by the wild­fire in Par­adise

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