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At least nine people killed in their cars as California wildfires spread and Malibu is evacuated

Sky News logo Sky News 10/11/2018

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Video provided by Associated Press

At least nine people have died and tens of thousands evacuated as fierce wildfires sweep across California.

All nine victims were found in the same area of the town of Paradise, in the north of the state. Four of them died while inside vehicles.

Feather River Hospital, near Paradise, was in the path of the fire © Getty Feather River Hospital, near Paradise, was in the path of the fire

The town's entire population of 26,000 was ordered to leave, officials said.

Sheriff Korey Honea said reports of more deaths are being investigated.

In a statement, the Butte County Sheriff's Office said: "The preliminary investigation revealed that the victims were located in vehicles that were overcome by the Camp Fire."

California fire captain Scott McLean said earlier that "pretty much the entire community of Paradise is destroyed", adding that the fire had grown to almost 110 square miles - four times its original size.

The fire raged through the town of Paradise on Thursday © Getty The fire raged through the town of Paradise on Thursday With fires also raging further south 157,000 people have been forced from their homes.

A separate fire is threatening Malibu and has caused the city to be evacuated.

Those who live there have been warned of an "imminent threat" to their safety, with thousands of people being urged to flee however they can.

"It is critical that residents pay close attention to evacuation orders," the Los Angeles County Fire Department tweeted.

"This is a very dangerous wind-driven fire."

Paradise Inn was gutted by the blaze © Getty Paradise Inn was gutted by the blaze

US media reports that schools have also been closed and evacuated due to the fire, and animals have been moved out of the LA Zoo in Griffith Park.

No deaths have been reported in Malibu.

Rapper Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian West are among those who have taken to social media to confirm that they are safe.

Thousands of homes have been evacuated as the fire rips through communities © Getty Thousands of homes have been evacuated as the fire rips through communities

Actor Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, tweeted that the fire is "dangerously close to our home" but that he and his family are safe. He lauded the work of the fire service.

The first of the fires broke out on Thursday, northwest of Los Angeles, and roared south, with an estimated 75,000 homes evacuated in western Los Angeles County and eastern Ventura County.

Malibu has about 13,000 residents - including a number of celebrities - and many have shared pictures of busy roads as scores of cars take to the roads in a bid to escape.

A resident looks at approaching flames as firefighters battle flames overnight during a wildfire that... © Reuters A resident looks at approaching flames as firefighters battle flames overnight during a wildfire that...

The LA County Sheriff's Office said it was receiving "many emergent phone calls" from people who "need our help to evacuate" and urged motorists in the area to be aware of emergency vehicles.

Strong blustery winds combined with dry conditions have helped the blaze spread, after weeks without rain and low humidity at the height of the wildfire season in north California.

The air has become hazy and the smell of smoke is overwhelming, prompting officials to declare it unhealthy.

They are advising older people and children to relocate any planned physical activities indoors.

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