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California warehouse fire: Death toll rises to at least 36

The death toll rose to 36 from a huge fire that tore through a converted warehouse in Oakland, California during a dance party and investigators said on Monday they "absolutely believe" more bodies will be pulled from the rubble.
California warehouse fire: Death toll rises to at least 36

The cause of the blaze, which erupted late Friday in a building that was home to an artists’ collective known as the “Ghost Ship”, has yet to be determined. It was the deadliest fire in the United States for more than a decade, Reuters reports.

“We are no closer to finding the cause and we absolutely believe that the number of fire fatalities will increase,” Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Melinda Drayton told a predawn news conference at the site.

As criminal investigators joined recovery efforts at the charred two-story loft building, just east of San Francisco, firefighters have discovered the remains of some three dozen people as they picked through the debris-filled wreckage.

The crews temporarily halted work in the early hours of Monday due to fears that an external wall could collapse. About 70 percent of the building had been searched at that point, authorities said.

Drayton said contractors and structural engineers will develop a plan on Monday to determine how to continue recovery efforts safely.

Arson is not suspected, according to officials, but investigators are checking whether the building, which served as a base for the Ghost Ship Artists Collective and often hosted parties, had a history of code violations.

Some of the victims were 17 or younger, although most were in their 20s and 30s, officials said. Some were from elsewhere in the country and abroad.

Photo: Reuters / Lucy Nicholson.