The number of those who have died from the most disastrous California fire on record has increased to 63 people, with over 631 persons still missing.
These stats were revealed on Thursday at a news conference held by Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea. Only a day ago, the number of missing people was put at 130.
Honea explained the wide disparity in reported figures as evidence of a more thorough count after emergency calls and other reports of missing people from the past week were checked. The initial figure was only a partial estimate.
The list probably included some who had fled the blaze and did not realise they had been reported missing, he added.
‘The chaos that we were dealing with was extraordinary,’ he said of the early crisis hours. ‘Now we’re trying to go back out and make sure that we’re accounting for everyone.’
Authorities also reported seven more fatalities, bringing the total to 63, in the deadliest wildfire in state history.
Authorities have received complaints by some survivors who reported they didn’t get warned early enough or even at all. The complaints are raising new questions about the best approach to use for evacuation procedures.
Reeny Victoria Breevaart, who lives in Magalia, a forested community of 11,000 people north of Paradise, said she could not receive warnings because mobile phones were not working. She also lost electrical power.
Honea said evacuation orders were issued through 5,227 emails, 25,643 phone calls, and 5,445 texts, in addition to social media and the use of loudspeakers. As mobile phone service went down, authorities went into neighbourhoods with bullhorns to tell people to leave.
‘The fact that we have thousands and thousands of people in shelters would clearly indicate that we were able to notify a significant number of people,’ the sheriff said.
The Camp Fire, one of three that has caused serious damage, is still raging. Firefighters report it is 40 percent contained even though it has displaced 52,000 people and destroyed 9,500 homes.
The search for survivors is still on all sits. President Trump plans to travel to California on Saturday to visit victims of the wildfire burning at both sides of the state.
In Southern California, crews continued to gain ground against a blaze of more than 153 square miles that destroyed more than 500 structures in Malibu and communities. At least three deaths were reported.