The death toll of a fire at a warehouse dance party in Oakland, California, late Friday night has reached 24 people, officials said Sunday, up from an initial count of nine bodies. About 15 people believed to have been in the building remain missing, and fire crews are slowly searching the rest of the badly damaged structure.
Many people who were killed or injured in the blaze had difficulty escaping the warehouse, described as a labyrinth of artists' workspaces and illegal dwellings. The main staircase to the upper floor, where the party was held, was flimsy and unreliable, while another staircase ended at a boarded-up door.
"If you were not familiar with the building and the way that it was," said Danielle Boudreaux, a former friend of the building's owner, "if you were going there for a party, you wouldn't be aware of the maze that you have to go through to get out." Only about 20 percent of the building has been explored by rescue workers so far, and more bodies are expected to be discovered soon.