World

Dozens feared dead in California rave party fire

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA A fire that roared through a warehouse dance party killed at least nine people and left two dozen others missing and feared dead inside the gutted building, officials said on Saturday, as anguished friends and relatives awaited word of their fate.

The cause of the blaze and precise number of casualties remained undetermined hours after flames engulfed the two-story structure that occupied about half a city block and housed a cluttered warren of artists' studios, craft booths, antiques and furniture.

The blaze started around 11.30pm on Friday (Saturday afternoon, Singapore time) in the city's Fruitvale district, a mostly Latino, blue-collar area that is also home to many artists living and working in converted lofts.

Oakland and Alameda County officials said they expected to find more victims once the burnt-out ruins of the building were fully shored up and recovery crews are able to safely comb through the structure's charred interior.

City Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said the blaze marked the worst single-structure fire she had seen in her career.

Mayor Libby Schaaf called it a "devastating scene".

Shaken friends of the missing huddled at a nearby pub waiting for word on possible victims, while about a dozen others gathered at a neighbourhood sheriff's station seeking news.

"I don't have high hopes," said a woman with four friends among the missing, declining to give her name.

"We've just spent the night calling hospitals and listening to police scanners."

Parents and others shared contact information on a Facebook page and asked anyone with information about the missing to call.

- REUTERS

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