The manager of the Oakland warehouse that went up in flames over the weekend, killing 36 people, apologized on television for the tragedy and defended his role as landlord for the building which was used as a residential artist community.
The fire broke out at the warehouse know as the “Ghost Ship” during a dance party Friday night.
The death toll stood at 36 on Tuesday with no change overnight in the number of bodies recovered in what remains of an Oakland warehouse.
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The founder of the “Ghost Ship” said he is sorry, but deflected blame for the blaze that gutted the warehouse that he now describes as a "mass grave."
“It’s not a good morning,” Derick Ion Almena told the “Today Show” on Tuesday, shaking his head. “What am I doing here? Can I just say sorry?”
See the “Today Show” interview at the end of this story.
He said the only reason he was there Tuesday was to put his face and his body in front of the scene.
Almena said he started the community in the warehouse as a dream for the arts and performing arts, but, he said, sometimes "your dream is bigger than your pocketbook."
Almena says he signed a lease for the building that "was to city standards supposedly."
Almena says he lived in the warehouse with his family and other residents, but said he didn't make a profit. He said, "This is not profit; this is loss. This is a mass grave."
More on the tragedy
Alameda County Sheriff's Deputy Tya Modeste said 36 bodies have been recovered and 26 of their families have been notified. Modeste says another nine bodies have been "tentatively identified." Officials are still lacking any type of identity for one individual.
Fire crews have resumed search and recovery operations.
Oakland Fire Batallion Chief Robert Lipp said crews have cleared 85 percent of the "Ghost Ship" building with one corner still inaccessible because it is unstable. Crews hope to stabilize it Tuesday and continue their search.
So far, the cause is believed to be an accident — namely, the result of too many people in a place with rampant building-code violations. But already some of the artistic community’s frustration seems aimed at both the warehouse’s artistic leader as well as the Bay Area’s unaffordable rent, according to a report in The Atlantic.
President Obama released a statement calling the fire “one of the worst fires in the state’s history.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that there were growing calls for a full accounting of how Oakland city officials handled safety and health issues at the warehouse as evidence shows that various city agencies fielded complaints over the last two years.
“I think we have to take responsibility and certainly our staff members that had that task were not as responsive or assertive as necessary,” said Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo on Monday.
More on the victims
Here is a list of the victims. Authorities are still working to identify some of the dead at the artist collective. Officials haven’t yet released the names of some of those who died in the blaze.
For profiles of the victims, go here.
Names released Dec. 5, 2016:
Em Bohlka, 33, Oakland
Micah Danemayer, 28, Oakland
Chelsea Dolan, 33, San Francisco
Feral Pines, 29, Berkeley
Alex Ghassan, 35, Oakland
Michela Gregory, 20, South San Francisco
Edmund Lapine, 34, Oakland
Jennifer Morris, 21, Foster City
Benjamin Runnels, 32, Oakland
Jennifer Kiyomi Tanouye, 31, Oakland
Cash Askew, 22, Oakland
David Cline, 24, Oakland
Nick Gomez-Hall, 25, Coronado
Sara Hoda, 30, Walnut Creek
Travis Hough, 35, Oakland
Donna Kellogg, 32, Oakland
Brandon Chase Wittenauer, 32, Hayward