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Frantic search goes on for missing after California wildfire |

Frantic search goes on for missing after California wildfire

The Associated Press
| Monday, November 19, 2018 4:09 p.m
A ferryboat and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge are obscured due to smoke and haze from wildfires Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Smoke and haze from wildfires hovers over Russian Hill Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
In this Nov. 15, 2018, photo, Troy Miller wipes his eyes as he walks beside a burned out car on his property in Concow, Calif. Miller said he tried to evacuate when the Camp Fire came roaring through the area, but had to turn back when the roads were blocked with debris and fire. A small group of residents who survived the deadly wildfire are defying evacuation orders and living in the burn zone. (AP Photo/John Locher)

CHICO, Calif. — Desperate families posted photos and messages on social media and at shelters in hopes of finding missing loved ones, many of them elderly, nearly two weeks after the deadliest, most destructive wildfire in California history. The death toll stood at 77 Monday, with about 1,000 people unaccounted for.

“I have an uncle and two cousins that I have not been able to make contact with. Paul Williams, in his 90’s, his son Paul Wayne Williams, in his 70’s, and his daughter Gayle Williams in her 60’s,” one woman wrote on Facebook. “Any info would be appreciated.”

Hundreds of searchers continued looking for human remains in the ashes in Paradise and outlying areas ravaged by the blaze Nov. 8, with the body count increasing daily.

Rain in Wednesday’s forecast added urgency to the task: While it could help firefighters knock down the flames, it could hinder the search by washing away fragmentary remains and turning ash into a thick paste.

Authorities located hundreds of missing people and the list of unaccounted for dropped dramatically Sunday from nearly 1,300 to 1,000. Social media pages gave updates on who was discovered dead and who was found safe.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea has said he put out the rough and incomplete list in hopes that many people would contact authorities to say they are OK. More than a dozen people are listed as “unknowns,” without first or last names.

“The data we’re putting out is raw, but my thought on that was it’s better to work toward progress than achieve perfection before we start giving that information out,” he told ABC on Sunday.

Robert James Miles, 58, lost the trailer he lived in in Paradise in the fire. He brought his 27-year-old son, Charlie, to a Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster center to meet with a mental health counselor.

“His main concern was getting Mama out, and it rattled him to the roots,” he said.

At the shelter Miles was staying in in Chico, people posted names of those they hadn’t heard from. Miles said he alerted a Red Cross worker Saturday that he recognized eight names on the board as friends and knew they were OK.

“Two of them were in the shelter,” he said with a chuckle.

Ellen Lewis, a 72-year-old woman who lost her home in Paradise, went to the FEMA center for help, and a FEMA representative showed her the list of the missing while she was there. She recognized two people from her archery club.

“I’m going to have to contact other people to see if they’re OK,” she said. She said she would call the sheriff’s office if she confirmed they were safe.

The fire, which burned at least 234 square miles (606 square kilometers) and destroyed nearly 12,000 homes, reported was two-thirds contained on Monday.

Categories: World
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