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Death toll from California dance party fire rises to 24

The search for bodies is expected to continue for at least 48 hours.

Updated at 5.30pm 

OFFICIALS SAY THE death toll has risen to 24 in a fire that ripped through a late-night dance party in a converted warehouse in Oakland, California, and they expect that number to climb as the search continues.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Sergeant Ray Kelly announced the new figure today.

Only about 20% of the charred remains of the building have been searched.

Oakland Battalion Fire Chief Melinda Drayton said fire crews worked through the night to clear debris from the gutted building.

The search for bodies is expected to continue for at least 48 hours.

The building known as the ‘Ghost Ship’ was an artist workspace and illegal home for a rotating cast of a dozen or more residents, those who lived there or visited often said.

Former residents said it was also a death trap with few exits, a rickety makeshift staircase, piles of driftwood and a labyrinth of electrical cords.

The ground floor had five recreational vehicles and other nooks used as living spaces that were rented out to tenants, while the upstairs had space for concerts like the deadly party that drew up to 100 people on Friday night.

With few lights, the place could be pitch black. One staircase led to a boarded up door. The water and electricity were stolen from neighbours and often didn’t work.

It’s unclear what sparked the fire, but officials said the clutter served as a tinderbox and there were no sprinklers inside.

Warehouse Party Fire Josh Edelson Josh Edelson

Kelly said people either escaped from the building or died inside, where the only way down from the second story was via a stairwell constructed entirely of wooden pallets.

It appears that either you got out or you got trapped inside.

About 50 to 100 people were believed to have been at the party when the fire started around 11:30 pm on Friday, officials said.

“We know there are bodies in there that we can’t get to — that have been seen but not recovered,” Kelly said.

Read: Mocked for his tweets, Trump fires back – on Twitter>

Associated Foreign Press
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