Filipino among dozens killed in California wildfires

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 17 2017 06:52 AM | Updated as of Oct 17 2017 10:05 AM

An employee of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) digs to find an electrical transformer in a destroyed neighborhood after a wildfire tore through Santa Rosa, California, US Sunday. Jim Urquhart, Reuters

MANILA - (UPDATED) A Filipino was among dozens killed this week in the north California wildfires, among the worst in the area's history, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed Tuesday. 

At least 41 people have died and crews were still searching for bodies in the state's wine country. 

Some 5,700 structures were destroyed by more than a dozen wildfires that started a week ago and consumed an area larger than New York City. Entire neighborhoods in the city of Santa Rosa were reduced to ashes, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. 

"We offer our sincere sympathies and prayers to the family of our kababayan who perished in this horrific fire," Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement.

The identity of the fatality was not immediately available.

The Consulate General in San Francisco has been in touch with the victim's family and has offered assistance, especially in coordinating arrangements for the repatriation of the victim's remains, Deputy Consul General Jaime Ramon Ascalon said in the same statement. 

"We also continue to communicate with the Filipino community through our social media advisories, and have offered consular assistance to Filipinos affected by the wildfires," Ascalon added. 
 
Some 13,500 Filipinos live in Napa, Sonoma, and Yuba counties, which were the hardest hit the wildfires. About 4,200 Filipinos meanwhile live in the other affected counties of Lake, Marin and Mendocino, the Department of Foreign Affairs said. 

Ina de Castro, a Filipina whose house was the only structure spared by the fire in her Santa Rosa neighborhood, told ABS-CBN News her home would have to be completely gutted due to extensive smoke damage, according to her insurance agent. 

Castro said it would take a year to rebuild her house and she has found it difficult to look for a temporary home due to a shortage of rentals in the area. 

As of Tuesday, about 11,000 firefighters supported by air tankers and helicopters were battling blazes, which have consumed more than 213,000 acres. Cal Fire, the state's firefighting agency, was hopeful the blazes would be contained by Friday.

The 41 confirmed fatalities make the fires California's deadliest since record-keeping began, surpassing the 29 deaths from the Griffith Park fire of 1933 in Los Angeles. 

Dry, windy, and hot conditions from late spring through autumn cause periodic wildfires in California. With Reuters and Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau