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David and Denise Morse were sent to Travis air force base after 21 people on their Grand Princess cruise were diagnosed with coronavirus

Retirees David and Denise Morse were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary with a 15-day trip aboard the Grand Princess cruise liner when 19 crew members and two passengers aboard the ship were diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The original itinerary had the Morses arriving in Ensenada, Mexico, from Hawaii on 5 March, and returning home to San Francisco two days later. Instead, the cruise liner was held off the San Francisco coast for several days, until it docked in the Port of Oakland on 9 March.

The 2,000 passengers on board disembarked over the course of three days. More than 800 California residents were sent to Travis air force base in Fairfield, about 47 miles north-east of San Francisco , to serve out a 14-day quarantine.

David and Denise are keeping a diary documenting their stay there.

11 March

David, 10.35am I dont know what this is going to be a journal, story or what. I just wanted to write down some of the many thoughts I have had as we go through this surreal ordeal.We are on the fourth floor of the Westwind Inn hotel, on the property of Travis air force base. Got in our room at 9.30pm last night, after a long day that started at 6am on the ship.

We had been dressed and ready to depart our stateroom C314 on the 10th floor, at 7am. The ship had arrived in Oakland the previous day, and passengers had begun disembarking the sick and elderly first. We couldnt see much from what was going on. All the action was on the starboard side, and we were on port.

We waited more than six hours for our turn today. My impression is that Princess Cruises is very experienced in handling large groups, feeding, giving instructions and disembarking procedures. They have it together. On the land, its more politically and medically challenging, as officials have to coordinate between cities, states and the federal government.

This morning, we thought we had to get up for our coronavirus test at 7.15am. On 6 March, Vice-President Pence had announced that everyone disembarking from the boat would be tested for coronavirus.

We scrambled to the elevator area, only to find that the staff were handing out breakfast boxes. So, no testing. At 9.30am, they gave us a temperature check and symptom questions. We were told we would be tested only if we show symptoms. Is that because there is a shortage of testing supplies?

We went downstairs and found a large group of masked passengers in line for coffee and using their bare hands to get juice cartons and breakfast boxes.

12 March

David, 8.55am There are 846 Californians in our four-story hotel at Travis air force base. The majority are elderly folks, many using canes, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters. Medical staff takes our temperatures twice a day. We asked again to be tested for Covid-19 and learned this morning from a medical staff person that they do not have test kits.

The Morses room at the Westwind Inn hotel on Travis air force base in Fairfield, California. Photograph: David and Denise Morse/The Guardian

It is likely that there are folks among us with the virus. We are advised to wash hands, wear our masks, stay six feet from others, and not gather in large groups. However, we have large groups standing close to each other in line to pick up their food boxes. Weve seen people pick up a box, look at it, then choose another box.

We skipped coffee this morning because to get coffee you have to stand in a line, then use your bare hands to separate a cup from a stack of cups and dispense coffee from a community container. I asked a medical staff person why not have staff dispense the coffee, noting they all have gloves. She said there is not enough staff.

I feel that each day we stay here we increase our chances of contracting the virus. Denise and I are doing our best to protect ourselves and stay positive. We are healthy and know that we will do well if we get the virus. We dont take the elevators; we try to stay away from groups of people. We exercise. I do tai chi every day and Denise meditates every day.

Denise, 2pm I spent much of yesterday and today talking to political folks about the conditions here, calling the offices of California senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala Harris and congressman John Garamendi.

We were feeling rather discouraged about the health and safety situation. But things are improving. At noon they started delivering our meals to our rooms.

David, 3.40pm What a day. Another passenger and I were outside playing Five Foot Two on the ukuleles we got on the cruise ship. A military guy politely approached us and said: Im sorry to interrupt, but I have orders to ask you to return to your room. I dont know why. Off to our room.

There is no alcohol allowed here. But we have a few small bottles from the ship. Just had Jack and coke, made Denise a gin and tonic without ice or limes.

13 March

David, 9.02am We are getting acquainted with how things work here. Yesterday at the reception area in the lobby I asked a friendly service woman if we could have some shampoo. She said, You know, soap is fine. I said OK, could we have some soap? She said, Sorry, we are out of soap. Later I asked another staff member for some soap. She gave me a small bottle of shampoo.

The view from the Morses fourth-floor room at the Westwind Inn. Photograph: David and Denise Morse/The Guardian

This morning, after complimenting the staff on how they are now dispensing the box meals to our rooms, I complained that coffee is still grab and go, as are juice, water, cream and sugar.

A few minutes later a staff member knocked at our door and said the commander of the quarantine operation would like to talk to me. Denise and I thought, Oh no, now we are in trouble. We met Nate Contreras, who informed us that he is in charge of 60 staff, who serve food, deliver medications, take our temperatures and respond to any passengers medical issue. He was friendly and wanted to hear our concerns. He explained that he didnt have enough staff to dispense coffee, but he has asked for more.

We asked for more hand-washing stations, signs and hand sanitizer. The only place we can wash our hands is in our rooms. We suggested they give us packets for the coffee makers we have in our rooms, he said he would look into it. Surprise: we were not in trouble.

Denise, 9am We got our first official Travis air force base newsletter today. Heres what they said about testing: Everyone here will have the opportunity to be tested for Covid-19. You are not required to be tested. It will be your choice. If you choose to be tested, it is important that you understand that if the results of your test are pending, then it is possible it may delay your departure.

David, 10.30am 23 March is the first day of spring and supposedly the end of our 14-day quarantine. We have nine days to go; this testing statement sounds like it is a feeble attempt to be able to claim that passengers were offered the opportunity to be tested. What would you do?

Here is our list of needs: a blanket (we have a one-sheet cover on our bed and its cold in here), coffee, replacement light bulb for the light on our bed stand, hand soap and laundry detergent.

Denise Morse out for a walk on the grounds of Westwind Inn. Photograph: David and Denise Morse/The Guardian

14 March

David, 8.03am Denise and I are healthy and in good spirits. We got another newsletter today. It repeats the same testing instructions we saw yesterday, which seem like a threat rather than an option to be tested.

We walked in the rain this morning. We have to walk on the lawn, as most of the sidewalks are outside the perimeter fence that surrounds the complex with security guards in SUVs watching 24/7.

16 March

Denise, 9.30am Woke up at 6am. While David was doing the laundry down the hall, I made the bed and cleaned the bathroom with the hand sanitizer cloths that we had brought with us on the cruise ship. They are gold, and we only use them to clean surfaces in our room and bathroom. There are no cleaning supplies. We were told we could have a room cleaning, but we prefer to not have anyone in our room.

We have decided not to be tested. Our rationale is we are in good health and show no symptoms. As required, we wear our masks when out of our room, stay six feet from individuals, dont touch handles. We take stairs and wash our hands for 20 seconds when we return to our room.

15 March

Denise, 9.31am Up at 7am. Our floor medical person took our temp at 8.30 normal. We have acquired some coffee, so David made coffee in our room. Breakfast was lighter this morning: bagel, cream cheese, banana, option for yogurt and a ketchup pack (what for?).

The daily2pm conference call with federal officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) left us confused and worried. They announced there have been two confirmed cases among passengers assigned to this facility. They said those with close contact with those individuals have been informed; no need to be concerned. They have begun testing those who asked to be tested only 30% of those at Travis ended up wanting a test. Those who got tested are still waiting for results.

Dinner served at 6.40pm included a hamburger bun with a piece of yellow cheese, sliced tomato and a piece of lettuce. I asked if there was anything else and the man who delivered it said no. So we used the microwave in our room to heat up the bun and cheese. Wasnt that bad, but it was not many calories. Twenty minutes later, there was a knock on the door and we were given two more boxes with a bare hamburger patty and fries. Too bad we had already eaten the cheese and bun.

A meal served at Travis air force base. Photograph: David and Denise Morse/The Guardian

17 March

Denise, 9.30am We dont have a table for eating. We tried using the luggage rack with a towel on it but that proved to be too unstable. Now David eats at the desk and I sit on a leather chair and balance the container on my lap.

We get many emails and texts. We find we need to take breaks from our telephones and from hearing about this pandemic.

At the daily conference call, the doctor gave us more details about the two confirmed cases.One person was identified as having the virus while disembarking from the ship and was not brought to Travis. The other case was a couple that had mobility issues and one tested positive. They were not on the base long and were in their room, so exposure was minimal to others, the staff told us. A total of 37 confirmed cases as of today from the Grand Princess.

When they brought our dinner, David put on some soothing classical music. We wish we had some wine.

I want to say this staff has taken a lot of flak from many of us, me included. They have listened, and in most cases, followed up. I have seen changes and an almost daily effort and improvement, specifically around food and drink.

At 8pm, we got a call from the front desk and we have two packages! Its like Christmas! David went down and just came up with two Amazon boxes. One box is from our son Jonathan: a large bag of M&Ms. The other box is from my sister: dental floss and body lotion. Were happy with these new items to add to our simple supply of extras.

20 March

Denise, 5 pm Bad news today. More people at Travis have tested positive. If they didnt get it on the ship, they probably may have gotten it here. The conditions the first few days were appalling.

On 20 March, HHS confirmed that, with new test results still coming in, eight people at Travis had tested positive. Four of them were hospitalized with complications of Covid-19. One person was hospitalized for other reasons.

Everyone that requested to be tested was tested, an HHS spokesperson said. The government cannot force an asymptomatic person to be tested.

In a statement, the department also emphasized that it is working to improve conditions for the Grand Princess passengers under quarantine.

This unprecedented response has presented significant logistical challenges that have affected passengers. During the first two days of this massive undertaking, HHS focused on screening passengers for symptoms, addressing any underlying health conditions, providing access to prescription medication, and getting passengers settled into their rooms. At each step of the way, plans and policies were adapted as necessary to accommodate specific problems at hand.

This is the first federal quarantine in nearly 60 years. HHSs number one priority is the health of the passengers, the people caring for them, and those in the surrounding communities. We continue to focus on hospitality issues, such as food service and housekeeping, to improve the comfort of our guests.

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Artists and housing activists say that safety matters, but crackdowns on warehouse spaces will displace already vulnerable communities

The devastating Oakland warehouse fire has provoked threats of mass evictions of artist communities and low-income residents, raising concerns that real estate developers will exploit the tragedy to shutter old buildings and displace vulnerable tenants.

Just days after the fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse that killed 36 people, city officials and community leaders in Oakland and cities across the US have begun targeting underground spaces that they say pose similar hazards and should be closed.

But artists and housing activists including in Baltimore, where dozens were abruptly evicted from an arts building two days after the Oakland fire said the crackdowns are hurtful and unproductive and will disproportionately impact LGBT communities and people of color.

It feels like a double dagger in our gut, said Sarah Sexton, an Oakland-based music booker. First we lose our friends and then we lose the spaces that weve bonded with them in.

The Friday night fire which ignited in an arts space that was filled with wood and lacked basic fire safety mechanisms has already prompted officials in Oakland and surrounding California cities to scrutinize other warehouses.

An Oakland barbecue restaurant held a press conference on Wednesday to call on the city to investigate a neighboring warehouse. Earlier in the week, a fire inspector visited a different Oakland warehouse, telling a tenant the city was investigating a complaint and taking steps to prevent a terrible tragedy.

In Richmond, a city just north of Oakland, the mayor Tom Butt wrote an op-ed raising concerns about an an unpermitted, unlicensed night club that he called our own Ghost Ship.

Artists said that efforts to improve the safety of underground venues and non-traditional housing are important, but argued that launching aggressive shutdowns will disrupt already marginalized communities and force some to become homeless. The debate comes amid an extraordinary housing crisis in Oakland where skyrocketing rents and tech-induced gentrification has led to mass displacement.

Its just so insulting that this is happening, said Lisa Aurora, co-founder of Naming Gallery in Oakland. We need to stand up for the people whose lives were taken, who were about creating spaces for people.

On Monday, Baltimore shut down a building called the Bell Foundry, citing safety violations and deplorable conditions, forcing many to immediately vacate.

Although Baltimore officials claimed the Oakland fire was not the impetus for the shutdown, affected tenants said it seemed obvious the city was using the tragedy as an excuse to clear out the property so that it could be redeveloped for a more profitable use.

They are being opportunistic about that travesty in order to flip a building, said Person Abide, a 29-year-old tenant, adding, The Bell Foundry functions as a place for queers and people of color to find support.

Flowers and candles placed during a vigil for those who died in a warehouse fire in Oakland. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Abide posted video of the eviction, showing a police officer repeatedly refusing to allow the tenants to re-enter the building to retrieve their cat.

These types of evictions are a significant problem in low-income housing across Baltimore, not just for arts spaces, added Abide, who was friends with one of the Oakland fire victims.

I dont have anywhere to live. I dont make much money and cant afford traditional rent, said a local activist and evicted resident who goes by the name Koala! Largess.

Aran Keating, artistic director of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society, a group that occupies the first floor of the Bell Foundry building, said it was wrong for the city to claim to be a supporter of the arts but then refuse to find a way to work with the pivotal group of artists.

When an arts community is building itself and bootstrapping itself in order to make huge impacts on the community, it gets stabbed. It gets pushed down.

Some of those involved in underground art scenes argued that a wave of shutdowns would only further discourage people from speaking out about legitimate safety concerns.

For venues putting on community-oriented shows that dont make a lot of money, it can also be difficult to navigate government bureaucracy and in some cases financially impossible to transform a building in a way that complies with municipal codes, which are often outdated.

Sexton said there were no easy solutions, but suggested the creation of a fund to help venues comply with building codes or a non-profit group that can work with fire marshals and arts organizations.

Annie Campbell Washington, an Oakland city councilwoman, said city leaders were committed to preserving art spaces and their housing.

Artists in Oakland are so important to our way of life, she said, but added, Obviously, human life and human safety has to be our number one issue.

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The tragedy has shaken a community facing disproportionate discrimination, a reality amplified by police and the media referring to transgender victims as he

Instead of grieving for her friends, Scout Wolfcave has spent the last two days phoning news reporters and begging them not to disrespect the transgender women who died by calling them men in their reports and refusing to use their proper names.

Feral Pines, Cash Askew and Em B were victims of the devastating fire on Friday night at an Oakland warehouse, known as the Ghost Ship, where at least 36 people died, many of them young artists, musicians and activists.

The tragedy has sent shockwaves through the Bay Area underground music scene, but has been particularly painful for the tight-knit communities of trans people, who already face disproportionate levels of violence and discrimination and often flock to Oakland in search of safer spaces to live and make art.

Wolfcave, an Oregon-based trans woman and close friend of Pines, said that when the police and the media incorrectly use he pronouns for the women and refer to them by the names on their legal documents, it is deeply hurtful to the trans community.

We fight hard enough every single day to be seen as our authentic selves and to be treated with respect, said Wolfcave, 34, in an interview at a San Francisco bar on Monday night. In death, you cant defend yourself anymore, so it falls on your friends to do it for you.

Wolfcave, who recently founded an initiative called the Trans Assistance Project, said she was eager to shift the focus toward the lives and accomplishments of the women, who were well-known in local arts scenes and were role models to many trans women.

Wolfcave said she considered Pines, 29, a sister, and that the two were roommates in Bloomington, Indiana. Pines recently relocated to Oakland where she found a queer family and community of trans artists and friends.

In Indiana, Wolfcave said, she and Pines struggled to access basic health care or find steady employment. Trans people move to the west coast where we can actually live as fully actualized human beings.

After moving to California, Pines planned to get her legal identification formally changed to her correct name a process that can be challenging and expensive, even in a liberal state.

A friend of Feral Pines, who died in the Oakland fire, said she was happier than she had ever been in her whole life. Photograph: Handout

Wolfcaves Trans Assistance Project which she formed after Donald Trump was elected was going to help Pines get the necessary funds to complete the process. (The Trans Assistance Project has set up a donation site to pay for funeral costs for Pines, Askew and Em B.)

ID changes can be a critical step for trans people, she said: Its really empowering and important that they have documents that match who they are.

Having proper identification can also be critical in life and death situations, ensuring police can correctly identify trans people.

She was happier than she had ever been in her whole life, Wolfcave said, recounting the last time she hung out with Pines in her new Oakland home. I had never seen her more full of light and possibility.

The last time they saw each other, Pines talked to Wolfcave about her dreams of traveling and making new music and said she was eager to start an all trans-girl rave collective.

Despite the intense mistreatment trans women face, particularly in a state like Indiana, Pines was never afraid to be herself and fight back against transphobia, her friends said, recounting her catchphrase blow up the sun.

She loved to take anyone to task for their bad politics, Pines longtime friend Max Tamola said. She was larger than life in the most beautiful way.

Wolfcave added: Feral was that nerd that knocked the bully out.

Cash Askew, a victim of the Oakland fire, was one half of the band Them Are Us Too. Photograph: Kristin Cofer

Another victim, Askew, was widely respected for her goth duo band Them Are Us Too and had recently begun making music with Pines.

Oakland curator Tiare Ribeaux said she met Askew when the musician was only 19 years old, and was in awe of her talent. I was blown away by her genius.

Describing Askew as a powerful voice for the queer and transgender community, Ribeaux said the 22-year-old helped pave the way for other trans and gender-nonconforming people to express themselves in art and their lives. She was really honest and courageous.

Em B, a poet and barista who died in the Oakland fire. Photograph: Courtesy of Jack Bohlka

Em B, 33, was a poet and barista who moved in 2015 from southern California to Oakland where she found a more accepting community, her father Jack Bohlka, said.

She was feeling at home, he said through tears, recounting how she recently told him, Dad, at last I feel at peace.

Bohlka said he was devastated to think that trans people, who had already endured so much violence and harassment, would have to face tragedy in an arts space meant to be a place where they could gather and feel welcome.

Its so fucking horrible that the trans community has to go to places like that that are not physically safe, even if they feel safe with one another.

His daughter was interested in moving to New York City and becoming a teacher, he added. She was always a champion for people who were on the margins.

Some queer friends in mourning noted that grieving and trauma are nothing new for trans women, a population that experiences high rates of assault, violence and suicide.

Wolfcave said: Trans women are always having to hold each other in grief.

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Friends and family mourn the victims of the devastating fire that sent shockwaves through the vibrant underground scene in the California city

The victims of the devastating fire that as of Monday killed at least 36 people in Oakland, California, were artists, musicians, activists, community organizers and other young people who came together for a party at the Ghost Ship warehouse on Friday night.

The fire, the deadliest in Oaklands history, sent shockwaves through the vibrant underground scene in the northern California city, which is a haven for experimental art and music.

This is a mass loss. Its reverberating throughout the entire community, said Sarah Carlberg, assistant director of the Bay Area Book Festival, who knew many at the party. Every one of those people were really active community makers and agents of culture and art.

As of Monday morning, investigators were still processing the scene at the warehouse and identifying victims, some as young as 17 and many in their 20s and 30s. Police expect the number of fatalities to continue to rise and have only confirmed the names of seven people so far.

Donna Kellogg, 32

Kellogg, who lived in Oakland, was a barista at a local coffee shop in Berkeley and was well known in the arts community.

She had a really good heart, said friend Jenny Yang, an Oakland resident who is active in the local DIY art scene. I just always felt like she was a very wise person in the sense of really understanding people and never showing negative judgement toward anyone.

Yang said she would always see Kellogg riding her bike and that she was often present at local art events: I felt like she was this magical person, kind of like an angel that arrived. She was always in the background smiling.

Donna Kellogg was a barista at a local coffee shop in Berkeley and was well known in the arts community. Photograph: Courtesy of Susan Slocum

Cash Askew, 22

Askew, an Oakland resident, was well known for her band Them Are Us Too, an emerging goth duo that launched their first album with Dais Records. She was without a doubt one of the most talented and loving people weve ever known, the label wrote on Facebook. We will never be the same.

Friends and loved ones have offered tributes online, with band Wax Idols writing: I cannot find words adequate enough to describe what a loss this is. Not just to me personally & us as a band, but to everyone who ever met Cash or felt the gentle, transcendent power of her existence, her music & her energy.

Cash Askew. Photograph: Kristin Cofer

Nick Gomez-Hall, 25

Gomez-Hall, from Coronado in southern California, worked at Counterpoint Press, a publisher in Berkeley. The company wrote on Facebook: Whether he was recommending new music to listen to (and it was always so good), regaling us with tales of the bowling alley, offering his beloved truck for a ride if anyone needed it, or sharing his much appreciated opinions about a book jacket or manuscript, he made everyone feel like they were his friend. He was kind, considerate, hilarious.

Gomez-Hall studied at Brown University, where community members were mourning on Monday and sharing memories of his music. A local newspaper shared an article he wrote and noted that his band Nightmom served as a kind of way in to the Providence music scene a few years ago, and we are seeing the impacts of his loss all around PVD today.

Nick Gomez-Hall. Photograph: Facebook

David Cline, 24

A 2015 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, with degrees in cognitive science and computer science, Cline lived in Oakland and was a musician and athlete growing up.

His former music teacher of 10 years, Amanda Walker, wrote on Facebook that he played clarinet for the all-state band and was a volleyball player for his high school team near Santa Monica. A friend, Kara OConnor, wrote in her own post that he was one of the absolute brightest people Ive ever had the great fortune of knowing.

Mateo Garcia, a friend of Clines since elementary school, told the Guardian he was always the classmate or teammate that lit up the room.
He was always able to snap you out of a funk by just saying something or doing something goofy.

David Cline was a musician and athlete growing up. Photograph: Courtesy of the Cline Family

Sara Hoda, 30

Hoda worked as a teacher at a Montessori school in the Bay Area, and with a friend, Carol Crewdson, had helped start a collective house, called the Musick Box, as a temporary residence for traveling artists. She was a principled person, Crewdson wrote on Facebook, She was compassionate, decent, and honorable. She didnt do drugs and she wasnt a drinker.

She was a teacher and a gardener, Crewdson wrote, She loved children and earth, and she put those principles in action.

Angie Green, another friend, posted her own tribute: I know we have not spoken in a while but I think of you often and will always miss you. You were one of the kindest and most selfless people Ive ever met and I wish you could have stayed with us longer.

Sara Hoda worked as a teacher and helped start a collective house as a temporary residence for traveling artists. Photograph: Facebook

Travis Hough, 35

A musician with the electronic group Ghost of Lightning, Hough was remembered by family and friends from his hometown, Benicia, and from the California art world he was a graduate of the California College of the Arts. A friend from high school, Jeanne Geiger, called Hough such a special member of our unique little Benicia music community, and his friend James Morgan wrote, Travis was always a model of compassion and grace. I have a profound admiration for him and the way he lived. He was a free spirit. He will be grievously missed.

His friends launched a donation fund for the family, writing that he was was a unique, warm, loving soul that this world was blessed to know.

Travis Hough was always a model of compassion and grace, his friends said. Photograph: Facebook

Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32

Wittenauer, from Hayward, California, was a musician who also went by the stage name Nex Iuguolo and was part of a band called Symbiotix.Fungi. His longtime friend Amanda Fish, who met Wittenauer in high school, said that he was part of a tight-knit community in the East Bay music scene.

It was great that he found all these Oakland events. He found similar artists and they all encouraged each other, he said. He knew everybody in the room. He was like Mr Charisma … Chase made everyone around him feel loved.

Wittenauer grew up in Santa Maria and became very interested in experimental music Fish described as industrial techno.

He was sweet and sincere and charming and he was really curious about the universe, she added. He was just excited about life. He had tons of energy and he really encouraged you to follow your dreams. Hes going to leave a huge hole in our life.

Brandon Chase Wittenauer. Photograph: Instagram

If you would like to share a tribute to any of the victims, email and

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City records show building had faced numerous formal complaints, as police spokesman says death toll could reach maybe a couple dozen

At least nine people were dead and 25 unaccounted for after fire broke out during a party in a warehouse in Oakland, city officials said on Saturday. A police spokesman said the death toll could be a couple dozen.

A city councilman told the Guardian he expected more deaths to be confirmed, and officials were reported to fear as many as 40 people dead inside the building, which is known as the Ghost Ship. But at an afternoon news briefing, officials did not confirm that number.

Were expecting the worst, maybe a couple dozen victims here, said Ray Kelly, a spokesman with the Alameda County sheriffs office. There were a lot of people in this building and I dont have an answer to how many victims there were.

Officials said teams were forced to pause their search and recovery work on Saturday morning in order to stabilize the building, as the walls had weakened to dangerous levels.

The building is very tricky, Kelly said. Theres all sorts of wreckage and debris. This is just a tragedy. There are no easy answers.

City records showed that the warehouse had faced numerous formal complaints, including a housing habitability charge of illegal interior building structure, filed last month. The citys investigation was still pending when the fire broke out.

In the last two years, the building had also faced two blight complaints, related to trash and construction debris, including claims that some garbage was hazardous.

Darin Ranelletti, the citys planning and building director, said that the city was able to confirm blight reports, but that its investigation into illegal construction within the building was not completed. The building was not permitted for residential living and would have required a special permit for a party, he added.

Kelly said bodies officials could only visually confirm nine deceased in the building so far. People either made it out or they didnt make it out, he said. It could take days to identify people

The building was an art collective with living space, he said. Its a location where young people come, aspiring artists, they meet, they socialize, they network.

Earlier, fire chief Teresa Deloach-Reed told reporters the warehouse, in the Fruitvale neighborhood, was full of a lot of makeshift, a lot of partitions, a lot of furniture, statues, just a lot of stuff that people seemed like have collected over the years.

The firefighters reported having a hard time making entry into the building and had to back out. Eventually the fire got so hot and the smoke got so dense that they had to back out.

Deputy fire chief Mark Hoffman told reporters a single wooden staircase lead to one level of the warehouse, and it was on fire when firefighters arrived. There was no evidence of sprinklers in the building, the fire chiefs said.

Seung Lee, a 26-year-old Berkeley resident, said he arrived at the party around 11pm with a group of friends and quickly left to get beer. When they returned after a few minutes, the fire had started.

Smoke was coming out furiously, he said. Black thick smoke. Lee said he didnt see anybody make it out of the structure once the fire began. We were just waiting, he said. There was a lot of crying, wailing and panic.

I was up all night thinking, what if I did not leave? he added. I would not have gotten out.

Firefighters stand outside a warehouse after a fire broke out during an electronic dance party late Friday evening. Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

On Saturday morning, the area around the warehouse still smelled strongly of smoke. The structure appeared to be largely burned out, its facade covered in soot. The warehouses name was still visible, in pink lettering on the front of the building.

They called it the Ghost Ship, now it really is a ghost ship, said Al Garcia, a local shopkeeper.

City councilman Noel Gallo, who represents the district where the fire occurred, said he expected that more than nine people had died. It seems like it was almost impossible for anybody to get out, he said. People got trapped. They are going to start removing the bodies.

A Facebook page for the party, billed as the Golden Donna 100% Silk 2016 West Coast Tour, showed 192 people had planned to attend a performance by Golden Donna, an electronic music act.

On the page, a fire inspector and friends and family of attendees tried to contact each other and account for missing people. Mothers, fathers and siblings posted contact information to a public spreadsheet, alongside the names of loved ones.

Nearly all those missing were in their 20s and 30s and described by identifying features: dreadlocks or strawberry blonde hair, green and brown eyes, scars and tattoos including a keyhole, a balloon and the words They Sleep, We Live.

Tanya Loh, one of the organizers of the effort, said she was moved to do something after her boyfriends best friend, set to DJ at the event, went missing.

The sheriffs office directed families to call an assistance center, set up with the Red Cross on 12th Street. Officials at the Csar E Chvez Branch Library, just south of Fruitvale, volunteered their building as a gathering place for friends and family. Organizers created a donation fund.

Firefighters leave the warehouse. Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

Garcia said he saw two teenagers running from the building. They were only 17 and 18 years old, he said. They were the last two that got out. Everybody started running, but [one] told me the smoke started over-running them.

Garcia said the youth he spoke to was distraught. He said no one came out after them and thats why he was crying. He knew there were people still in there.

It seemed there was a large crowd at the event, Garcia said, based on cars parked outside. I couldnt believe there was that many people, he said. If anybody got out of there, they were lucky.

Chico Rodriguez, who lives and works near the fire, said he rushed to the scene around 1am and saw firefighters struggling to contain the flames. It looked like it was going out, he said, but all the sudden it flared up again.

Rodriguez, 62, said the smoke was thick: I could smell it all the way down by where I live.

People who made it out were traumatized, he said: This woman, she started screaming and crying. She was really distraught about the whole thing.

It was too hot, too much smoke, I had to get out of there, Bob Mule, a photographer and artist who lives at the building and suffered minor burns, told the East Bay Times.

I literally felt my skin peeling and my lungs being suffocated by smoke. I couldnt get the fire extinguisher to work.

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