Death toll climbs to 23 in California wildfires

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A helicopter tries to put out the wildfire in California's Napa, the United States, on Oct. 10, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua] 

Two more deaths from the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County, Western Calfornia, has brought the number of dead to 23 for all the wildfires sweeping the Bay Area in California, local TV station KRON4 reported Wednesday night.

Sonoma County Sheriff's Office issued a mandatory evacuation order for Seventh Street East and Castle Roa, which is an area about one mile (1.6 km) away from historic Sonoma Square and Mission San Francisco Solano, the last of the California Missions.

Thousands of firefighters grappling with the raging fires were still unable to control the blazes three days after the devastating disaster broke out in Northern California on Sunday night.

At least 3,500 homes and commercial properties were leveled to the ground in one of the most damaging wildfire disasters in the history of California.

The entire historic city of Calistoga, with a population of more than 5,000, was evacuated late Wednesday. The city is famous for its hot springs and wine industry and is a tourist destination in the Napa Valley. Authorities have banned all visitors from the area due to the wind shifts and potential threat of more wildfires.

Earlier in the day, Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano told a press conference in Santa Rosa, about 90 km away from San Francisco, that the death toll from the wildfires may continue to rise and the the number of people reported missing has gone up to 560 in the county. He said the county sheriff had originally received reports of 670 people unaccounted for in the wildfires in Sonoma county, but 110 of them were located safe and sound later, cutting the number of missing people to below 600.

"The individuals who died were found as the result of police and sheriff's deputies being called to neighborhoods for various reasons," he said, adding that teams put together to excavate the burned area for bodies have yet to begin their work.

"When we start doing searches, I expect that number to go up," Giordano said.

Santa Rosa, which is the largest city in California's Wine Country and the fifth most populous city in the San Francisco Bay Area, was among the counties hardest hit in the California wildfires.

Giodano said the county authorities have ordered madatory evacuations in many areas impacted by the wildfires, and the evacuation order may remain in place throughout this week.

California wildfires have burned nearly 170,000 acres of land as of Wednesday, and the blaze is still burning in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Yuba counties.

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