Oakland fire: 30 confirmed dead as search continues

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(BBC) Thirty bodies have so far been recovered from a warehouse in Oakland, California, following a deadly fire during a party, officials say.

Only about 20% of the building has been searched and “a significant number” of people are still missing, they said.

Oakland residents held a vigil for victims of the fire
Oakland residents held a vigil for victims of the fire

It is unclear what caused the fire at the converted warehouse.

The safety record of the building is under close scrutiny. There were no sprinklers. The only exit from the second floor was a makeshift stairwell.

Meanwhile, a man identified by former residents as the collective’s co-operator, has drawn criticism for a Facebook post, in which he wrote that “everything I worked so hard for is gone”, without acknowledging those who died.

‘Like a maze’

Oakland fire chief Teresa Deloach-Reed said between 50 and 100 people were inside the venue when the fire started late on Friday.

The old warehouse, known as the Ghost Ship, was hosting a concert by electronic group Golden Donna and six other acts.

Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said the warehouse was like a maze (AP)
Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said the warehouse was like a maze (AP)

The fire caused the roof to collapse on to the second floor, part of which then fell through to the ground floor.

The building did not have a sprinkler system and firefighters did not hear any alarms when they arrived, Ms Deloach-Reed said.

The warehouse, which housed artists in improvised studios, was packed with furniture, mannequins and other objects, obstructing firefighters’ efforts to put out the blaze, she added.

Daylight revealed charred walls and window frames (Reuters)
Daylight revealed charred walls and window frames (Reuters)

“It was filled end to end with furniture, whatnot, collections. It was like a maze, almost.”

Fire crews worked all night at the scene. The search for bodies is expected to continue for at least another 48 hours.

Melinda Drayton, battalion chief at the Oakland Fire Department, said firefighters were going through the debris “bucket by bucket”.

“It was quiet, it was heartbreaking,” she said, choking back tears. “This will be a long and arduous process.

Firefighters are struggling through piles of debris to reach the bodies of those killed in the warehouse fire (Getty Images)
Firefighters are struggling through piles of debris to reach the bodies of those killed in the warehouse fire (Getty Images)

“We don’t believe we have even gotten close to the origin of the fire.”

She said every precaution was being taken to treat the victims’ remains with respect.

Only three of the bereaved families are believed to have had their loved ones’ deaths confirmed, due to issues with identification.

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