Nine die in California wildfires, tens of thousands forced to flee

Late Friday Butte County Sheriff Korey Honea updated the Camp Fire death toll.

“It’s my sad duty to confirm that we now have a total of nine fatalities,” he said, four more fatalities beyond the five reported earlier.

Details were limited, and Honea did not release names of the victims.

“I don’t have all of the details because we have investigators out on the field attempting to get to those locations” where the casualties were reported, Honea said at a press conference.

But he did say that four people were found inside a vehicle in the Paradise area, while another was found nearby outside the vehicle. Three more were found outside a residence, and one inside a house.

Dozens of other people were reported missing.

Harrowing escapes 

Residents who managed to escape Paradise posted harrowing videos to social media as they drove through tunnels of swirling smoke and orange flames to outrun the wildfire.

The flames destroyed hundreds of homes, a hospital, a gas station, several restaurants and numerous vehicles in Paradise, officials said.

An AFP photographer on the scene saw houses enveloped in flames, while others had already been reduced to ashes and cars burned to husks.

Authorities issued mandatory evacuation orders for more than 52,000 people in the scenic area in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, including some residents of Chico, population 93,000, near Paradise.

California Governor-elect Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to provide assistance to the fire-hit areas.

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