Search teams have recovered remains of 42 people killed by a fierce wildfire that largely incinerated the town of Paradise in northern California, marking the greatest loss of life from a wild land blaze in state history, authorities said on Monday night.
The latest death toll, up from 29 tallied over the weekend, was announced by Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea at an evening news conference in the nearby city of Chico after authorities found the bodies of 13 more victims of the devastating blaze dubbed the Camp Fire.
The fire already ranked as the most destructive on record in California in terms of property losses, having consumed more than 7,100 homes and other structures since igniting on Thursday in Butte County’s Sierra foothills, about 280 km north of San Francisco.
Mr Honea said 228 people were officially listed as missing in the disaster, but added his office had received requests to check on the wellbeing of more than 1,500 people who had not been heard from by loved ones.
Of those cases, 231 individuals had turned up safe, he said.
Authorities made clear, however, that they are bracing for the number of fatalities to climb.
In addition to 13 coroner-led recovery teams working in the fire zone, 150 search-and-recovery personnel were due to arrive on Tuesday, Mr Honea said.
The sheriff said he also has requested three portable morgue teams from the US military, a “disaster mortuary” crew and an unspecified number of cadaver dog units to assist in the search for human remains. Three groups of forensic anthropologists were also called in to help, he said.