California wildfires: death toll climbs to 65

More than 600 people now reported missing in deadliest blazes in state’s history

The death toll from the two wildfires sweeping through California has risen to 65, according to latest figures from US authorities.

Most of the victims died in Northern California’s Camp Fire, which has destroyed thousands of buildings. A separate fire in Woolsey, in the south of the state, has claimed two lives.

The “painstaking process of finding the missing and identifying the dead is challenging, with some of the bodies recovered burned beyond recognition”, CNN reports.

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However, cooler weather has “helped fire crews gain ground” against the wildfire, CBS News reports.

The number of missing has soared to 631 since the fires broke out just over a week ago, although CNN says that some of the names on the Butte County missing persons list “appear more than once”.

Officials have said that it is “hard to determine the number of missing, because some people may have evacuated and can't be reached with cell phone service unreliable due to the fire”.

So far this year, an area larger than Belgium and Luxembourg has burned in California, the BBC reports.

The small town of Paradise bore the brunt of the Camp Fire blaze. “Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it’s that kind of devastation,” said California Fire Captain Scott McLean.

The latest wildfires, the deadliest and most destructive in the state's history, have forced at least 300,000 Californians to flee their homes. Celebrities Neil Young, Robin Thicke and Gerard Butler were among those who lost their homes, while Lada Gaga and Kim Kardashian West were forced to evacuate.

Tests have confirmed an outbreak of norovirus at a shelter housing some of the people who fled. The highly contagious virus can cause diarrhoea, fever and body aches.

The White House has announced that Donald Trump will travel to California tomorrow to meet with wildfire victims. No other details were provided about the president's trip.

Trump has previously threatened to withhold federal aid for California, blaming the fires on "poor" forest management. A spokesman for state Governor Jerry Brown called Trump’s comments “inane and uninformed” and said climate change was largely to blame for the blazes.

Meanwhile, US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that fighting massive wildfires was "not a Republican or Democrat issue", adding: "It's unsustainable to have this happen year after year or have a season like this where you have hundred-thousand-acre fires becoming routine.”

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