The number of people listed as missing in a northern California wildfire jumped past 1,000 as searchers found the remains of eight more victims on the eve of President Donald Trump’s trip to witness the devastation.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters the number of people unaccounted for almost doubled from 631 to 1,011 in 24 hours as authorities receive more reports of people missing and as emergency calls made when the fire broke out are reviewed.
“I want you to understand that this is a dynamic list,” he told reporters. He said that on a positive note, 329 people who had been listed as missing since the fire broke out had so far been accounted for.
“The information I am providing you is raw data and we find there is the likely possibility that the list contains duplicate names,” he said, adding that some people who had escaped may also be unaware that they were listed as missing.
The eight additional sets of human remains found brought to 71 the total number of dead from the so-called Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive in California history.
– ‘Forest mismanagement to blame’ –
The inferno erupted November 8, laying waste to the town of Paradise at the northern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and sending thousands fleeing.
Trump is set to visit the region on Saturday to survey the damage and meet victims of the fire that has devoured an area roughly the size of Chicago.
In an interview with Fox News ahead of his visit, Trump doubled-down on his earlier claim that mismanagement of California’s forests was to blame for the fires. And he acknowledged that climate change may have contributed “a little bit” to the wildfires.
“You need forest management. It has to be,” Trump told Fox.
Roslyn Roberts, 73, forced from her home in Paradise, said she voted for Trump but would disagree with him if she has the chance on Saturday.
“I would tell him that this fire has nothing to do with forest mismanagement. Thousands and thousands of homes got destroyed with no trees around,” she said amongst other evacuees at a shelter set up by the American Red Cross in a church.
In the community of Chico, just west of Paradise, volunteers had erected a tented encampment for others forced from their homes.
Before his visit, Trump tweeted that he is looking forward to meeting Governor Jerry Brown and his newly-elected successor Gavin Newsom.
“We are with you!” Trump said.
The Camp Fire has burned 146,000 acres (59,000 hectares) and was 50 per cent contained by Friday, authorities said.
They added that 47,200 people had been evacuated because of the fire and nearly 1,200 were living in shelters.