The number of people confirmed dead in wildfires sweeping northern California has climbed to 31, as officials warned that conditions would worsen. Hundreds of people remain missing as at least 22 fires rampaged across the state’s famous wine country.
More than 8,000 firefighters are now battling the flames. The wildfires have destroyed more than 3,500 buildings and homes over 170,000 acres and displaced about 25,000 people.
Strong winds that have fanned the flames eased in recent days, but forecasters warned they were set to pick up again on Friday night. It is not yet clear what started the fires on Sunday night, but officials say power lines blown over by strong winds could be the cause.
The fires have scorched more than 190,000 acres, an area nearly the size of New York City, reducing whole neighborhoods in the city of Santa Rosa to gray ash and smoldering ruins dotted with charred trees and burned-out cars. The official cause of the disaster was under investigation, but officials said power lines toppled by gale-force winds on Sunday night may have sparked the conflagration.
Authorities have warned that the death toll from the spate of more than 20 fires raging across eight counties for a fourth day could climb higher, with more than 400 people in Sonoma County alone still listed as missing.
“People are on the move in cars stuffed with belongings. They are either fleeing from a newly announced evacuation zone or returning to a neighborhood that may have been spared, trying to get back to their homes.But they are also at the mercy of the wind”, report VOA.