Lost in Paradise, California

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Which of the following is more likely?

1) Over 500 people died in Paradise, who’s bodies have not yet been recovered.

2) Over 500 people fled Paradise, and now, getting on to weeks later in time, have not heard that hundreds are missing and unaccounted for, and that hundreds of searchers are looking for them in the rubble, with no small amount of danger to the searchers, anxiety to everyone else, and of course expense.

Obviously time needs to go by in this state of chaos, before contacts can be made, numbers of dead vs missing can stabilize. But with every day, and every day after that, and every day after that, the most lost, most destitute, most confused, most disrupted individuals must have some understanding that they need to call somebody and say, “stop looking for my body, I’m here on the phone with you.”

Obviously, we shift over time from believing 2, as it is likely most explanatory (and was very likely when the “missing” number was way over 1,000) to figuring 1 must explain most of the dead. But if that turns out to be wrong, and hundreds and hundreds of people from this village are not phoning in … in a world where there are 700 million phones … well, that would be an interesting phenomenon that needs further study.

As a point of information, the population of Paradise, California before the fire was about 26,000. So the percentage of this subset of humanity that were driven away from their city and have either decided to remain missing, or do not for some reason have the wherewithal to understand that they are among the missing, would be just under 2%. I suppose that is well within the percentage of people in a typical American population who have the ability to be astonishingly clueless. But as day and day and day goes by, one would think other people would notice, notice this person who seems to come from a burned out city in California, in some shelter somewhere, and wonder if they are among the missing.

Alternatively, when a town of 26,000 rather suddenly burns down,and there are not that many roads out of town, and the population is unaccustomed to this sort of thing, about 2% of the people might perish. I’m not sure what percentage I would have guessed a priori. But it sounds about right now.

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2 thoughts on “Lost in Paradise, California

  1. Five hundred people. Each an individual with their own stories, family, friends.

    Grim reality now is that almost if not absolutely all of them are dead.

    No words are gonna suffice here really. Shared.

  2. These numbers and the underlying question have been bothering me since they were originally announced, so it’s good to find that you’ve given voice to the issue Greg.

    My own thoughts, resulting from my own experiences with fires and acquaintances cuaght in them, is that even if these people were missing in the first few days they’d be rapidly identified afterward. Grant even that they were not accounted for at the time that they fled, they’d be homeless now and surrounded by folk who would at some point ask if they’ve registered, or simply been in contact with mutual friends/family and discovered that their status had not been clarified. That the missing number has been largely static after initially creeping upward is telling.

    The only hope I can see is that there may not be a coordinated accounting for people who have actually taken the time to register with different authorities. This seems a long bow to draw though… And parsimony, when accounting for the sheer number of homes destroyed, and the number of people who tended to remain in similar situations in Australia, also argues that the news will not be good.

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