Officials proclaim state of emergency following Oakland blaze

Oakland City Council is scheduled to ratify the state of emergency on Thursday to allow state and federal funds to help cover the costs of the inferno, the cause of which has yet to be determined.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Flames rise from the top of a warehouse, which caught fire during a dance party in Oakland, California, December 3, 2016.

Updated Dec 7, 2016

Oakland officials on Tuesday proclaimed a state of emergency to begin the process for state and federal aid after the inferno which killed at least 36 people.

The blaze broke out on Friday at an artists' loft and performance venue, known as the "Ghost Ship," which likely lacked proper fire safety equipment such as sprinklers, smoke detectors and proper exits, officials said.

Even some of the artists who lived there, seeking cheap rent in an expensive city, called it a "death trap."

Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said the City Council was scheduled to ratify the state of emergency on Thursday, adding the cause of the deadly blaze has yet to be determined.

"This has been a heavy labour operation plus a heavy mental operation,” said Reed.

Over the weekend, the news rippled across the US to friends and families of people living in Oakland, a city where many musicians and artists have moved as housing prices in the Bay Area have risen. Rents at the loft ran between $300 and $600 dollars a month.

The cause of the fire is unclear but arson looks unlikely, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said. Criminal charges and civil suits are possible over the allegedly unsafe conditions that may have contributed to the tragedy.

Before prosecuting anyone responsible for unsafe conditions in the building, Schaaf said, the city's first priority is finding the victims and supporting the families.

The blaze ranks as the deadliest in the United States since 100 people perished in a nightclub fire in Rhode Island in 2003. 

TRTWorld and agencies