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'More than 1,000 missing' in California fire

Saturday November 17 2018

Chico, California

A pebble is seen at a donation fair for fire evacuees camping at a parking lot in Chico, California, on November 14, 2018. PHOTO | JAVIER TOVAR |AFP 

BBC
By BBC
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More than 1,000 people have been reported missing in a California wildfire which has destroyed thousands of homes and killed at least 71, local officials have said.

The death toll rose from 63 on Saturday, nine days after the Camp Fire broke out in northern California.

However, the sharp increase in the missing list - from 631 to 1,011 in 24 hours - may not be accurate.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said it was possible it contained duplications.

"I want you to understand that this is a dynamic list," he told reporters.

"The information I am providing you is raw data and we find there is the likely possibility that the list contains duplicate names."

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Authorities have also warned that some of those on the list may be fine but unaware people are trying to find them, or unable to call. However, there could also be people among the dead who no-one has yet realised are missing.

Chris and Nancy Brown embrace while looking

Chris and Nancy Brown embrace while looking over the remains of their burned residence after the Camp fire tore through the region in Paradise, California on November 12, 2018. PHOTO | JOSH EDELSON |AFP

The fire - the deadliest in the state's history - has destroyed 142,000 acres (57,000 ha), including most of the town of Paradise, home to 27,000 people.

Rescue workers, aided by cadaver dogs, were continuing to comb what little remained of the town on Friday.

In total, some 47,000 people have been told to evacuate, with those who have fled the fire being houses in emergency shelters, as well as with friends and family, while others are camping.

A halloween decoration remains at a burned home

A halloween decoration remains at a burned home after the Camp fire tore through the region in Paradise, California on November 12, 2018. PHOTO | JOSH EDELSON | AFP

President Donald Trump is due to travel to California on Saturday to survey the damage and meet those affected.

What's the latest on the firefighting operation?

The California Fire Department says it has now contained about 45 per cent of the Camp Fire blaze.

Abandoned vehicles sit on the side of a road in

Abandoned vehicles sit on the side of a road in Paradise, north of Sacramento, California on November 9, 2018. PHOTO | JOSH EDELSON | AFP

Officials say they do not expect to fully contain the blaze until the end of the month.

They are also battling several other fires, including the Morgan Fire in Contra Costa County, near San Francisco, the Woolsey Fire in Ventura County near Los Angeles and the smaller Hill Fire, also in Ventura County.

Three more people have also died in the Woolsey Fire.

The worst-hit area is Paradise, with officials saying it will need a "total rebuild" job that will take several years.

Brock Long, administrator of Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), said the damage to Paradise was "one of the worst disasters" he had ever seen.

Military troops are assisting forensics teams and cadaver dogs as they continue to search for human remains.

Officials have warned the search operation could take weeks.