Emergency responders in Oakland brace for more casualties

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Recovery teams examine the charred remains of the two-story converted warehouse that caught fire killing dozens in Oakland, California, U.S., December 4, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTSUMXA

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ALISON STEWART, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: Good evening and thanks for joining us.
Officials in Oakland, California said today that the death toll from this weekend’s tragic warehouse fire is at least 30 people and is expected to rise as they find more victims.

Several dozen people initially reported “missing” have been reunited with their families, but officials are asking relatives of the missing to save items that might have d-n-a samples of their loved ones.

Emergency responders are working in 12 hour shifts to sift through the site where a two-story warehouse collapsed after rapidly igniting and burning for five hours late Friday night and early Saturday morning.

Firefighters and other responders have scoured only 20-percent of the site, moving debris bucket by bucket.

MELINDA DRAYTON, OAKLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT:
This will be a long and arduous process, but we want to make sure we’re respecting the victims, their families, and our firefighters’ safety.

STEWART: That process is expected to take several more days, as are the official notifications to families.

SGT. RAY KELLY, ALAMEDA COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT: We anticipate the number of victims will rise and it will increase in regards to the amount of people that are still missing, yes, it’s a significant number.

STEWART: Josette Melchor is a community organizer and digital art curator who has six friends on the “missing” list. She had been inside the warehouse before and was concerned it was not safe.

MELCHOR:
It was entirely made of wood, entirely made of reused furniture and the key thing that I think everyone is thinking about is the just the sense that you got when you climbed up this ladder or this staircase that you just couldn’t get back down fast. There was no way that was going to happen.”

STEWART: She hosted a vigil last night for friends in this close knit community waiting for word from the authorities.

MELCHOR: We’re all realizing that we need to remember people’s lives and remember the people surrounding us and remember the smiles and faces that are always around us in this community and how much we cherish them.
STEWART: Her nonprofit group — the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts — started a relief fund that rose quickly to its goal of $150,000.

MELCHOR: It’s incredible to see how many people are coming out from all over the world to support such a small community.

STEWART: DJ Augie Sanchez has performed at parties like the electronic music event that was underway at the warehouse Friday night when the fire broke out. Two of his friends were performing there at the time.

SANCHEZ: We as performers know the risks we take in some of these spaces, and so it definitely–it hits home. It could have been any one of us that was at an event like this.

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