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Oregon wildfires: Dozens of people missing in deadly blazes

A person walks past gutted homes in the Medford Estates neighborhood in the aftermath of the Almeda fireImage copyrightREUTERS

Dozens of people are missing in Oregon wildfires that have displaced tens of thousands of people, Governor Kate Brown has said.

She implored householders to stay out of the fire zones despite reports of looting.

Oregon’s emergency management director Andrew Phelps said they were braced for a “mass fatality event” from the fires.

The infernos have killed at least four in Oregon and 11 elsewhere. One hundred blazes are now scorching 12 US states.

What did the governor say?

She told reporters on Friday: “As of now, there are early reports from our state police that there are dozens of missing persons related to the fires specifically in Jackson, Lane and Marion counties.”

She did not offer further details on the missing persons.

The governor, a Democrat, also clarified that 40,000 Oregonians were under mandatory evacuation orders.

State officials said a day earlier that half a million people were affected. But Ms Brown said on Friday the higher figure included those who remained at home but had been advised to be ready to evacuate.

Ms Brown added: “I know that rumours of looting are extremely alarming and that it’s unsettling not to know whether your home is still standing.

“Let me assure you that we have the Oregon National Guard and Oregon State Police monitoring the situation and preventing looting.”

Police in Marion County, south of Portland, arrested two men after a car chase on Thursday for allegedly breaking into and looting evacuated homes in the area.

Drone footage shows homes completely wiped out by wildfires

The governor noted that federal aid had been approved, which will help provide additional support in fighting the fires and caring for those displaced.

What’s the situation in Oregon?

Oregon’s forestry department fire protection chief Doug Grafe said on Friday firefighters were still battling 16 large blazes, but cooling temperatures and additional moisture in the air are helping efforts.

Beatriz Gomez Bolanos, 41, told Reuters of her family’s frightening drive to safety through fires burning on both sides of their car.

She instructed her four children to close their eyes as they made their escape.

“Everything is gone. We have to start again from nothing, but we are alive,” she told the news agency.

At least one blaze in Oregon – the Almeda Fire, one of the most destructive in the state – is being treated as suspected arson.

A 41-year-old man described by police as “a local transient” was arrested on Friday on suspicion of starting a large fire that threatened several homes, reports KVAL-TV.

But investigators said that arrest was separate from the main inquiry into the Almeda fire, which has been linked to at least two deaths and destroyed hundreds of homes in the towns of Phoenix and Talent.

The smoke pollution from the wildfires has left Oregon’s largest city, Portland, with the worst air quality in the world, followed by San Francisco and Seattle, according to IQAir.com.

— bbc news