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Hawaii’s governor warns that scores more people could be found dead following wildfires on Maui

today08/14/2023 42

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LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Hawaii’s governor warned that scores more people could be found dead following the Maui wildfires as search crews go street by street through neighborhoods where the flames galloped as fast as a mile a minute across the landscape.

The blazes that consumed most of the historic town of Lahaina, are already the deadliest in the U.S. in more than a century, with a death toll of at least 96.  “We are prepared for many tragic stories,” Gov. Josh Green told “CBS Mornings” in a recorded interview that was aired Monday. “They will find 10 to 20 people per day, probably, until they finish. And it’s probably going to take 10 days. It’s impossible to guess, really.”

As cellphone service has slowly been restored, the number of people missing dropped to about 1,300 from over 2,000, Green said.  Twenty cadaver dogs and dozens of searchers are making their way through blocks reduced to ash.  “Right now, they’re going street by street, block by block between cars, and soon they’ll start to enter buildings,”

Jeff Hickman, director of public affairs for the Hawaii Department of Defense, said Monday on NBC’s “Today.”
Such crews had covered just 3% of the search area, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said Saturday.  The blaze that swept into centuries-old Lahaina nearly a week ago destroyed nearly every building in the town of 13,000, leaving a grid of gray rubble wedged between the blue ocean and lush green slopes. That fire has been 85% contained, according to the county. Another blaze known as the Upcountry fire has been 60% contained, officials said.

“There’s very little left there,” Green said of Lahaina in a video update Sunday, adding that “an estimated value of $5.6 billion has gone away.”  Even where the fire has retreated, authorities have warned that toxic byproducts may remain, including in drinking water, after the flames spewed poisonous fumes. And many people simply have no home to return to. Authorities plan to house them in hotels and vacation rentals.

Fueled by a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane, the flames on Maui raced through parched brush — one moving as fast as a mile (1.6 kilometers) every minute, according to Green.  “With those kinds of winds and 1,000-degree temperatures, ultimately all the pictures that you will see will be easy to understand,” he said.
The fires are Hawaii’s deadliest natural disaster in decades, surpassing a 1960 tsunami that killed 61 people.

They also surpassed the 2018 Camp Fire in northern California that left 85 dead and destroyed the town of Paradise.

Source: AP – All contents copyright 2023 Associated Press.  All rights reserved.

 

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