The deadliest fires in California history are still burning, and the destruction continues. The Camp Fire, in the north of the US state, is now one of the most lethal in the country since the turn of the last century.

A police officer stretches crime scene tape around an area where human remains were found in a car that was destroyed by the Camp Fire on November 15, 2018 in Paradise, California.
A police officer stretches crime scene tape around an area where human remains were found in a car that was destroyed by the Camp Fire on November 15, 2018 in Paradise, California. (AFP)

The search for victims of a catastrophic blaze that reduced a northern California town to ashes intensified on Thursday and authorities said the list of those reported missing had expanded to more than 600 in the deadliest wildfire in California history.

At least 63 people have been confirmed dead so far in the Camp Fire, which erupted a week ago in the drought-parched Sierra foothills 280 km (170 miles) north of San Francisco. It now ranks as one of the most lethal single US wildfires in more than a century.

Authorities attributed the high death toll in part to the staggering speed with which the wind-driven flames, fueled by desiccated scrub and trees, raced through Paradise, a town of 27,000 residents.

TRT World's Ediz Tiyansan reports from California.

Huge losses

Nearly 9,000 homes and other buildings, including most of the town, were incinerated last Thursday night, hours after the blaze erupted, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

What was left was a ghostly, smoky expanse of empty lots covered in ash and strewn with twisted wreckage and debris.

Thousands of additional structures were still threatened by the blaze, and as many as 50,000 people remained under evacuation orders. 

An army of firefighters, many from distant states, laboured to contain and suppress the flames.

The revised official roster of 630 individuals whose whereabouts and fate remained unknown is more than double the 297 listed earlier in the day by the Butte County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff Kory Honea said the list of missing would continue to fluctuate as more names are added and others are removed, either because they turn up safe or come to be identified among the dead.

The higher confirmed death toll, and rising number of people classified as unaccounted for, were revealed at an evening news briefing by Honea, who said the remains of seven more Camp Fire victims had been located since the previous tally of 56 was announced on Wednesday.

At least three dead in other California fire

At the other end of the state, meanwhile, more residents were being allowed back into the zone of a wildfire that torched an area the size of Denver west of Los Angeles. The fire was 62 percent contained after destroying nearly 550 homes and other buildings. At least three deaths were reported.

Source: Reuters