Dozens of people are feared to have been killed after a fire broke out during a party at a converted warehouse in Oakland, California. Recovery efforts are ongoing to determine the exact number of casualties.
The incident began at about 11:32 p.m. PT on Friday when fire crews were called to reports of a structure fire at 1305 31st Avenue, which is a 2-story warehouse that was used as a work area for artists and may also have been used as a residence.
The fire broke out when as many as 100 people were attending a party on the second floor of the building, which was locally known as the “Oakland Ghost Ship.” Golden Donna, the stage name for Wisconsin-based producer Joel Shanahan, was among several people who were performing.
A few dozen people were able to escape, most of them without injuries, but many others remained trapped on the second floor as the fire rapidly spread throughout the building.
Initial rescue efforts were hampered by limited access to the second floor, while eventual recovery efforts were halted for hours because the building’s roof had collapsed onto the second floor, which in turn partially collapsed onto the first floor.
Firefighters had recovered nine bodies by early Saturday evening, but firefighters have spotted additional bodies and fear the death toll will rise significantly because more than 24 people remain unaccounted-for. Authorities are preparing for the possibility of up to 40 dead.
If confirmed, it would make it the deadliest fire in the United States since February 2003, when 100 people were killed when a fast-moving fire engulfed The Station nightclub in the town of West Warwick in Rhode Island.
Identities of those killed and missing have not yet been released, but authorities said they include guests from other U.S. states as well as other countries.
The cause of Friday’s fire was not immediately known but there was no immediate indication of arson. However, the Oakland’s Department of Planning said the structure recently came under investigation, adding that it was not licensed to be used as a residence. A license would also have been necessary for Friday’s event but no such license had been given.
Family members and friends looking to locate loved ones may call (510 382-3000.
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