Fears for dozens in party fire

People watch as firefighters and emergency crews work the site of a warehouse fire in Oakland.
People watch as firefighters and emergency crews work the site of a warehouse fire in Oakland. Marcio Jose Sanchez

AT LEAST nine people have died and up to 40 are feared dead after a fire broke out during a warehouse party in Oakland, California, authorities have said.

Up to 100 party-goers were inside the building when the blaze began about 11.30pm on Friday (local time).

Alameda County sheriff's sergeant Ray Kelly said he expected the number of deaths to rise.

City fire chief Teresa Deloach-Reed said: "A majority of the fatalities were found up on the second floor. It must have been a very fast-moving fire.

"We still have to do a more thorough search of the building and we don't know the potential number of other victims.”

She said firefighters found no evidence that fire alarms were activated while the fire spread.

The event was hosted by 100% Silk, a Los Angeles- based electronic label, whose acts Golden Donna, Cherushii and Nackt were on the bill.

Authorities confirmed the scene of the deadly fire was under investigation for trash violation and illegal construction. Investigators are also looking into whether people were illegally living in the warehouse-turned-art studio.

"The whole building was divided up into small areas that were basically work areas for artists,” deputy fire chief Mark Coughlin said. "So it ranged from people doing woodworking to people doing sculpting to people doing kinetic art.”

When firefighters arrived at the scene the only staircase into the building - a makeshift structure built with wooden pallets - was engulfed into flames.

Friends and family members of those missing were searching for information on the event's Facebook page. Organisers have also compiled a list of the names of party-goers unaccounted for.

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