(VOA News) – Dixie Singh is No. 158 on the official list of people missing after Northern California’s catastrophic wildfire. That came as news to her.
“I am the only Dixie Singh I’ve ever heard of. And I am alive,” the 86-year-old woman said Wednesday.
Singh’s story illustrates the confusion and uncertainty that persist three weeks after the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century ripped through a string of communities with astonishing speed and destruction. But it also offers hope that others listed as unaccounted for will turn up and not be added to the already staggering death toll of 88.
As of Thursday, the number of names on the daily list put out by the Butte County Sheriff’s office was 197, down from a high of 1,300 two weeks ago.
The Associated Press found Singh through a public records search that listed a cellphone number for her friend Allan Bates, 84, who was equally puzzled over why she was considered missing when he answered his phone.
“Huh? You’re looking for Dixie? You want to talk to her? She’s right next to me,” he said.
The inferno Nov. 8 all but leveled the town of Paradise, home to 27,000, and ravaged neighboring communities, forcing thousands to flee. As authorities continue combing the charred ruins for human remains and collecting DNA samples from relatives, they are trying to determine who on the list is truly missing.