The death toll of California wildfires, the most lethal outbreak of wildfires in state history, rose to 35, fire officials in Northern California said on Friday.
The wind-driven blazes which erupted on Sunday night have destroyed an estimated 5,700 homes and businesses and forced the evacuation of at least 25,000 people, reports Reuters.
With more than 200 people still missing in Sonoma County alone, and rubble from thousands of incinerated dwellings yet to be searched, authorities have said.
”We’ve challenged the troops to get out there and secure mainly the south parts of these fires in preparation for those strong north winds,” Bret Gouvea, deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), told a news conference.
As of Friday afternoon, 17 major wildfires - some encompassing several smaller blazes merged together - had consumed nearly 222,000 acres of dry brush, grasslands and trees across eight counties.
Governor Jerry Brown planned to visit the area with California’s two US senators on Saturday.
The 35 confirmed fatalities - 19 in Sonoma County - mark the greatest loss of life from a single fire event on record in California, surpassing the 29 deaths from the Griffith Park fire of 1933 in Los Angeles.
Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said his office had investigated nearly 1,500 missing-persons reports stemming from the fires, and all but 235 had since turned up safe as of Friday evening.
Still, Giordano said 45 search-and-rescue teams and 18 detectives had been deployed to scour obliterated neighbourhoods for more victims.
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