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Death toll rises to 33 following Oakland warehouse fire

The death toll has risen to 33 following a warehouse fire that broke out late Friday night during a party in Oakland, California.

The Alameda County Sheriff’s office told reporters on Sunday that the number of dead may increase as rescue workers continue their search.

Oakland Battalion Fire Chief Melinda Drayton said fire crews worked through the night to clear debris from the gutted building. Officials on Saturday said the death toll could reach many as 40 people.

Fire officials have yet to determine the cause of the blaze that took place in a building used to house artist studios and locally called “the Oakland Ghost Ship.” One fire official said the studios were separated by curtains and that there appeared to be no working smoke detectors, Reuters reported.

Witnesses who attended the party described a fast-moving fire in a two-story building that had no working fire sprinklers. Images posted on social media showed the blaze protruding through the roof of the structure before it collapsed.

Many of the dead were discovered on the second floor of the building, which the city’s fire chief described as having only a single point of entry with a staircase constructed of pallets, according to Reuters. An event page created on Facebook showed 176 people had planned to attend the party, which included a performance by electronic musician Golden Donna.

More than 50 people were inside the building when the blaze started, Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach-Reed told the Washington Post.

“This is pretty tragic for us,” Deloach-Reed said. “It is hitting this community pretty hard. I don’t even want to talk about how the families and friends are feeling. We have a community that’s hurting.”

In a statement, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said she was “grateful to our first responders for their efforts to deal with this deadly fire.”

“Our focus right now is on the victims and their families and ensuring that we have a full accounting for everyone who was impacted by this tragedy,” she said.

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