As the death toll continues to rise in the most violent fire in California history, the sheriff of Northern California County where the fire still continues said on Friday that more than a thousand people are still missing, a staggering rise from previous lists.
As of Friday, 71 people had been confirmed dead in the fire, which swept the city of Paradise and adjacent areas on November 8. About 500 experts and more than 20 corpses are scouring the burned hills and ravines of the forest community because of the fire. human remains.
The new list of missing persons, who surprised even authorities who investigated the devastation and expected the worst, raised questions about who is on the list and how it was compiled.
A new list of the disappeared had hundreds of more names than a list released earlier. Why has it increased so dramatically?
Sheriff Kory L. Honea of Butte County said his team reviewed the list by adding all the people described as missing on all calls received since the fire began, including during the first panic moments.
"I give you the best information I have now," said the sheriff. "Let's not expect the perfect to stop progress."
The sheriff said on Friday that authorities counted about 330 people on a previous list of missing persons, but the total still rose on Friday as more names were added.
"This is a dynamic list," said Sheriff Honea. "It will float both up and down every day."
Why put people on the list if the sheriff is not sure they are really missing?
The list includes people who may not know they were reported missing. Sheriff Honea said his hope was that people who were safely and wrongly classified as missing would check the list and call the sheriff's office.
"We are finding that there are many people who do not know we are looking for them," said the sheriff. "That's why we're publishing this list."
Is there a pattern in people listed as missing?
Many are older. Of the 246 people to whom the ages were given, more than 200 were over 60 years old. The youngest person on the list is 20 and the oldest person is 101.
Eric Reinbold, the police chief of Paradise, the city most affected by the fire, said that A new list highlighted how many older people may have been trapped by the fire.
"Like any other community, we've had older people and some have given up driving or can not drive," Reinbold said. "There are a number of reasons why people do not have the ability to evacuate on their own."
How reliable is the list?
Like the escape of the fire itself, the search for the disappeared is sometimes chaotic. An earlier list published by the sheriff's office included five people aged 119 years. The five are still on the missing list, but their ages have been removed. At least five names are listed twice and there are also question marks next to some people.
Has anyone on the list been found?
A Facebook poll seems to indicate that at least a dozen people who survived the fire are on the missing list.
David and Frances Neil are listed as missing on the Butte County list, but the couple's daughter-in-law, Domonique Neil, said they were "safe and family."
When contacted by The New York Times, Neil said he did not know the couple was listed on the Butte County list. "There are lots of lists out there," she said. "It's hard to keep up."
The experience of the Neil family and others mistakenly reported as missing highlights a possible deficiency of the system: those who are secure have no incentive to check the list and help correct it.
Do the authorities have any estimates of what will be the final death toll?
California has never seen a fire like this. The cops are very reluctant to guess.
Chief Reinbold said he could not predict what the final numbers would be. But he prays that not even the hundreds of people on the list: "No one wants that number to be so high."