San Francisco, Oct 13 (IANS) The death toll from the devastating wildfire raging across the US state of California has risen to 31 as officials continued the grim search for more bodies amid the ashes.
Since igniting Sunday in spots across eight counties, the fires transformed many neighbourhoods into wastelands. An estimated 25,000 people were forced to flee, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In Santa Rosa city, the hardest hit by the fires, officials said they were stunned by the scale of the destruction. An estimated 2,834 homes were destroyed in the city alone, along with about 400,000 square feet of commercial space, Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey said at a news conference on Thursday.
Flames left entire neighbourhoods and commercial districts in ruins and even destroyed the city’s newest fire station on Fountaingrove Parkway.
Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said that another person was found dead in his county as search crews and cadaver dogs began sifting through debris.
Later Thursday, officials confirmed the discovery of several more bodies. Of the 31 deaths, 17 were in Sonoma County, eight were in Mendocino County, four were in Yuba County and two were in Napa County, according to officials.
Some of the bodies were recovered intact, while others had been reduced to ashes and bones. In two cases, the remains were identified through the serial number on medical devices, such as a metal hip replacement.
Two were identified by dental records, another through distinct tattoos. Authorities used fingerprints and family members to identify the rest.
As of late Thursday, about 400 people were still missing. “It could be weeks or even months before all the bodies are identified,” the Sonoma County Sheriff said.
California Governor Jerry Brown offered his sympathy to the wildfire victims of the wildfire and was expected to visit the affected areas soon.
More than 8,000 firefighters were battling the blazes and more manpower and equipment was pouring in from around the country and from as far away as Australia, officials said.