Hawaii’s Maui wildfires death count surged to 93, as reported by the Maui County website. This devastating event marks the most lethal US wildfire in over 100 years. With rescue teams still surveying the affected areas, notably in the charred remnants of Lahaina, this death toll is anticipated to climb further.
Reuters highlighted the extent of the damage, revealing its magnitude four days after a rapid blaze devastated the historic Lahaina resort town. It left an indelible mark, reducing structures to rubble and vehicles to molten metal. As estimated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the rebuilding of Lahaina comes with a hefty price tag of $5.5 billion. The fire inflicted damage or obliteration on over 2,200 buildings, scorching a sprawling expanse of over 2,100 acres.
During a Saturday press briefing, Hawaii Governor Josh Green gravely projected that the casualty figures will surge, given the ongoing rescue and retrieval operations. The daunting task is evidenced by the fact that dogs skilled in detecting bodies have barely combed through 3% of the entire disaster zone, as cited by Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier.
In light of this catastrophe, Attorney General Anne Lopez announced a comprehensive review into the decisions leading up to and during the wildfire’s onset. Simultaneously, Governor Green confirmed an assessment of the emergency response protocols. Disastrous complications amplified the severity, with communication breakdowns, ferocious wind speeds from a looming hurricane, and a simultaneous distant wildfire, severely hampering effective coordination with primary emergency agencies.
This wildfire, which flared up on Tuesday, now stands as Hawaii’s grimmest natural disaster, eclipsing the 1960 tsunami that claimed 61 lives. In national comparison, it surpassed the 2018 Paradise, California fire that took 85 lives, and ranks as the most deadly since the 1918 Cloquet fire which killed 453 in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Addressing the immediate needs of the affected, Governor Green stated that 1,000 hotel rooms have been secured for the homeless, with arrangements in place for complimentary rental accommodations. So far, over 1,400 victims found refuge in emergency shelters. FEMA director, Deanne Criswell, shared that 150 FEMA personnel are already on-site, with reinforcements of additional search teams expected shortly.