California wildfires

Death toll hits 48 as search effort intensifies

AT&T workers repair telephone lines on a road filled with burned-out vehicles in Paradise, California.
AT&T workers repair telephone lines on a road filled with burned-out vehicles in Paradise, California.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

PARADISE, California • The remains of six more fire victims were found on Tuesday in a northern California town overrun by flames last week, raising the death toll to 48 in the most lethal and destructive wildfire in California's history.

The latest fatality count was announced by Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, after forensic teams with cadaver dogs spent the day combing through a ghostly landscape strewn with ash and charred debris in what was left of the Sierra foothills hamlet of Paradise, about 280km north of San Francisco.

Mr Honea said 100 National Guard troops were being sent in at his request to assist the search for additional human remains left by the so-called Camp Fire.

The intensified effort to locate victims came on the sixth day of a blaze that has incinerated more than 8,800 homes and other buildings, including most of Paradise, a town once home to 27,000 people that was largely erased hours after the fire began last Thursday.

More than 50,000 residents remained under evacuation orders.

The killer blaze had blackened 52,600ha of drought-parched scrub by Tuesday, but crews had carved containment lines around a third of the fire's expanding perimeter, helped by diminished winds and high humidity.

The news was likewise more upbeat on the southern end of California's wildfire front, where a blaze called the Woolsey Fire has killed two people, destroyed more than 400 structures and displaced some 200,000 people in the mountains and foothills near the Malibu coast west of Los Angeles.

 
 

That blaze has scorched 39,000ha of chaparral-covered rolling hills and canyons spanning Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Beyond the loss of homes, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the fire had destroyed "deep infrastructure" - power and water lines, sewers, roads and lights - "and other things that make a city a city".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2018, with the headline 'Death toll hits 48 as search effort intensifies'. Print Edition | Subscribe