SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Officials have activated a criminal investigation team to look into a warehouse fire that has claimed the lives of at least 33 people in Oakland, California.
Crime investigators were already on site to work on possible leads, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf confirmed at a press briefing near the warehouse, adding that it would be up to Alameda County District Attorney's Office to go after people responsible for the worst fire in the history of the city on the U.S. west coast.
Some 33 bodies were recovered from the debris of the fire starting on Friday at about 11:30 p.m. (0730 GMT Saturday) and continuing into the Saturday morning, Sergeant Ray Kelly of Alameda County Sheriff's Office said at the same briefing.
Earlier in the day, the spokesman updated the death toll twice, from 9 to 24, and then to 30.
Among the dead, seven had been identified, most of them in their 20s or 30s, with one only 17 year-old. Their identities would be released by the sheriff's office later in the day.
Kelly also said there were foreign nationals, including Europeans and Asians. However, the authorities would not made the information public at least for now.
Still unclear was how many bodies would be found. Officials initially estimated that fatalities could be up to 40, but Kelly declined to speculate, only assuring that the number would continue to rise.
The warehouse, known as "The Oakland Ghost Ship" was permitted by the city only for storage purposes. However, the two-story structure in an industrial neighborhood of East Oakland was converted into art studios, a party venue and probably a residence.
Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach-Reed said Saturday there was no sign of fire alarms and no evidence of a sprinkler system.
Kelly said Saturday searching through the debris could take at least 48 hours. He reiterated the time frame needed on Sunday. Heavy machinery was brought in on Saturday to help with cleaning up and shore up the building, which is now a crime scene.