8:08 - 05.12.2016 / Views: 3
California fire death toll rises to 33 in grim search through warehouse
California fire death toll rises to 33 in grim search through warehouse

A fire that devastated an Oakland, California, loft building during a weekend dance party has taken at least 33 lives and the toll will likely rise, authorities said on Sunday, as criminal investigators joined recovery teams at the charred ruin.

Firefighters in Oakland, east of San Francisco, found the remains of nearly three dozen victims as they sifted through the debris-filled shell of the two-story converted warehouse being used by an artists’ collective.

The cause of the fire was still undetermined, officials said. Arson is not suspected but investigators want to find out if the building, often used for musical performances, had a history of code violations.

Mayor Libby Schaaf said the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office activated its criminal investigation team at the fire scene. A representative of the prosecutor’s office is monitoring the recovery process, she said, adding she was not authorized to say if a criminal probe was under way.

The mayor said the city’s first priority was finding the victims and supporting the families. “We have delivered the unacceptable and horrific news of losing a loved one to seven of our families.”

The blaze, which erupted about 11:30 p.m. on Friday (0730 GMT on Saturday), ranks as the deadliest in the United States since 100 people perished in a 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire.

The warehouse, which served as a base for the Ghost Ship Artists Collective, was one of many converted lofts in the city’s Fruitvale district, a mostly Latino area where rents are generally lower than in the rest of Oakland.

As of Sunday evening, only 35 to 40 percent of the building had been searched, said Sergeant Ray Kelly, spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials are still unsure how many people were in the building at the time of the fire and how many more victims might be found.

SOME VICTIMS AGED 17 OR YOUNGER

Recovery teams had yet to search an unspecified number of mobile homes parked on the first floor, Kelly said, in illustrating the scope of the task. He said the trailers appeared to have people living in them.

The building was designated for use as a warehouse only, according to the city. The city was aware of reports that people were living there, but no permits had been issued for that purpose.

The recovery operation was delayed for hours as the roof collapsed onto the second floor and in some spots, the second story had fallen onto the first, making it unsafe to enter.

The effort has proceeded slowly as teams have struggled to clear mountains of debris and locate victims who appeared to scatter throughout the unstable structure.

“We’re finding victims in every quadrant of the warehouse,” Kelly said. “We’re finding victims where we least expect them.”

Exhaustion and the scope of the disaster were taking an emotional toll on crews who had been working around the clock since the fire ignited about 36 hours earlier, officials said.

With many victims burned beyond recognition, family members were asked to preserve items that might contain DNA of the victims to help with identification.

After notifying their families, the Alameda County coroner released the names of seven victims who had been positively identified.

– Cash Askew, 22, Oakland, Calif.

– David Clines, 35, Oakland, Calif.

– Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, Coronado, Calif.

– Sara Hoda, 30, Walnut Creek, Calif.

– Travis Hough, 35, Oakland, Calif.

– Donna Kellogg, 32, Oakland, Calif.

– Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, Hayward, Calif.

Some of the victims were 17 years old or younger, although most were in their 20s and 30s, officials said. Some were from other parts of the country and outside the United States.

One of the dead was the son of a sheriff’s deputy, Kelly said. “This tragedy has hit very close to home,” he said.

Chris Nechodom, 30, said he was on the ground floor of the building when he saw flames race across the ceiling. As he fled, he heard a loud noise and saw a plume of thick black smoke billowing out.

“It blew out maybe 10 feet out of the entrance. After that, I saw a few more people crawl out,” he said. Nechodom said he was unsure how many people were inside when the fire started.

‘SET UP FOR A FIRE’

Photos of the “Ghost Ship” venue posted online showed a space brimming with an elaborate array of musical instruments, religious statues and antiques. The area was furnished with a mix of overstuffed sofas and colorful carpets and featured a maze of side rooms and nooks.

“The whole place was built like you are going to set up for a fire,” said Matt Hummel, 46, who twice visited the space before the fire and had helped renovate other warehouse spaces for artists.

The party took place on the second floor of the building, which appeared to have only two exits, officials said. There was no evidence of smoke detectors or sprinklers, they added.

The city had received complaints about “blight” and construction without permits and opened an investigation. An inspector verified the “blight” complaint after observing piles of debris outside, but failed to gain access to verify the construction complaint, the city has said.

Schaaf told reporters she did not know why inspectors were unable to get into the building when they tried to inspect it. She said she was putting together a team of city employees “to gather every piece of information.”

U.S. lawmakers push for answers on Trump team’s Russia ties
15:15 - 16.02.2017

A crisis over the relationship between President Donald Trump’s aides and Russia deepened on Wednesday as a growing number of Trump’s fellow Republicans demanded expanded congressional inquiries into the matter. Trump sought to focus attention on what he called criminal intelligence leaks about his ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Trump forced Flynn out on

North Korea launches ballistic missile test
12:12 - 13.02.2017

North Korea fired off a ballistic missile into the East Sea from Banghyeon North Pyongan Province early Sunday, according to South Korean officials. South Korea’s military is analyzing exactly what type of missile it was but there’s a strong possibility that it was a midrange Musudan type, according to officials. North Korea has test fired

US investigators corroborate some aspects of the Russia dossier
12:12 - 13.02.2017

For the first time, US investigators say they have corroborated some of the communications detailed in a 35-page dossier compiled by a former British intelligence agent, multiple current and former US law enforcement and intelligence officials tell CNN. As CNN first reported, then-President-elect Donald Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of

After day in South Korea court, Samsung chief awaits arrest decision
15:15 - 16.02.2017

Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee left a Seoul court after more than eight hours on Thursday to await a decision on whether he will be arrested over his alleged role in a corruption scandal that has engulfed President Park Geun-hye. The 48-year-old Lee, wearing a dark coat and navy tie, kept his head down

Key business lobby warns UK not to play favorites in Brexit
12:12 - 13.02.2017

A key business lobby warned Britain’s government Monday not to play favorites among industries when it negotiates the country’s exit from the European Union, saying that ignoring any sector would hurt the entire economy. The Confederation of British Industries and the international law firm Clifford Chance also said in a new report that it is

Trump, South Korea’s Hwang agree to strengthen defenses against North Korea: White House
16:16 - 30.01.2017

U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn agreed to take steps to strengthen joint defense capabilities to defend against North Korea’s nuclear threat, the White House said on Sunday after a telephone call between the two leaders. “President Trump reiterated our ironclad commitment to defend (South Korea), including through the provision

After day in South Korea court, Samsung chief awaits arrest decision
15:15 - 16.02.2017

Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee left a Seoul court after more than eight hours on Thursday to await a decision on whether he will be arrested over his alleged role in a corruption scandal that has engulfed President Park Geun-hye. The 48-year-old Lee, wearing a dark coat and navy tie, kept his head down

BT supports Google’s Android in EU antitrust row
21:21 - 06.02.2017

BT (BT.L) has become the first major telecoms company to back Google (GOOGL.O) in a battle with EU regulators, defending the “stability and compatibility” of the Android operating system, which is in the sights of anti-trust regulators. The EU says Google stifles competition by forcing smartphone makers to pre-install its search function and browser to

Nokia beats market expectations, sees network market improving
14:14 - 02.02.2017

Finnish network equipment maker Nokia reported its quarterly profits fell less than expected, helped by cost cuts and the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent, and said the tough global market was starting to stabilize. Nokia and its rivals, Sweden’s Ericsson and China’s Huawei [HWT.UL], have struggled lately as telecom operators’ demand for faster 4G mobile broadband equipment

U.S. lawmakers push for answers on Trump team’s Russia ties
15:15 - 16.02.2017

A crisis over the relationship between President Donald Trump’s aides and Russia deepened on Wednesday as a growing number of Trump’s fellow Republicans demanded expanded congressional inquiries into the matter. Trump sought to focus attention on what he called criminal intelligence leaks about his ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Trump forced Flynn out on

BT supports Google’s Android in EU antitrust row
21:21 - 06.02.2017

BT (BT.L) has become the first major telecoms company to back Google (GOOGL.O) in a battle with EU regulators, defending the “stability and compatibility” of the Android operating system, which is in the sights of anti-trust regulators. The EU says Google stifles competition by forcing smartphone makers to pre-install its search function and browser to

Iran says it sealed Boeing plane deal at half price
20:20 - 26.12.2016

Iran said on Sunday it had negotiated to pay only about half the announced price for 80 new Boeing (BA.N) airliners in an order that the American planemaker had said was worth $16.6 billion. Boeing and its European rival Airbus (AIR.PA) have both signed huge contracts this month to supply airliners to Iran, the first