At least 63 are now dead from a Northern California wildfire, and officials say they have a missing persons list with 631 names on it in an ever-evolving accounting of the missing after the nation's deadliest wildfire in a century.
The high number of missing people probably includes some who fled the blaze and didn't realize they had been reported missing, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. He added that he was making the list public so people could see if they were on it and let authorities know they were safe.
"The chaos that we were dealing with was extraordinary," Honea said of the early crisis hours last week. "Now we're trying to go back out and make sure that we're accounting for everyone."
Some 52,000 people were displaced to shelters, the homes of friends and relatives, to motels — and to a Walmart parking lot and an adjacent field in Chico, a dozen miles away from the ashes.
At vast shelter parking lot, evacuees from California's deadliest fire wonder if they still have homes, if their neighbors are still alive — and where they will go when their place of refuge shuts down in a matter of days.
"It's cold and scary," said Lilly Batres, 13, one of the few children there, who fled with her family from the forested town of Magalia and didn't know whether her home survived. "I feel like people are going to come into our tent."
The Northern California fire that began a week earlier obliterated the town of Paradise and caused such carnage that searchers continued to pull bodies out of incinerated homes and cremated cars. The toll had reached 63 dead and 9,800 homes destroyed.
The fire was 40 percent contained, but there was no timeline for allowing evacuees to return because of the danger. Power lines are still down, roads closed, and firefighters are still dousing embers, authorities said.