In Maui County, Hawaii, the death toll is approaching 100, while authorities warn they have only covered 3% of the search area. The Pacific Disaster Center announced that at least 4,500 people are in need of shelter, as nearly 2,200 structures have been destroyed by the flames, of which 86% are residential buildings.
Four days after the fire in the historic tourist city of Maui, in Hawaii, United States, the numbers of the extent of the disaster began to be known.
There have been 93 deaths reported so far, but Hawaii Governor Josh Green warned in a press conference on Saturday, August 12, that this number will continue to rise, in part because dogs trained to those of the corpses covered only 3% of the search. area, as stated by Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier.
Additionally, it is estimated that rebuilding Lahaina’s historic district alone could cost $5.5 billion, with more than 850 acres burned, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
This natural disaster in Hawaii surpassed the tsunami of 1960, which killed 61 people (a year after Hawaii became a US state) and also the fire in the city of Paradise, California, which left 85. dead, in 2018.
Officially, the numbers are lower than the 1946 tsunami, which killed nearly 170 people in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, but authorities expect a substantial increase in the death toll from this month’s tragedy in Maui. .
Currently, the highest number of wildfire victims in the United States was recorded in 1918, in the Cloquet Fire, in Minnesota and Wisconsin, which claimed 453 lives.
This is how prevention works
“We have an area that we need to contain that’s at least 5 square miles and that’s full of our loved ones,” Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said.
In an effort to speed things up, they marked the houses they were looking for with bright orange spray paint and painted them with a ‘giant X’. When they find more people they write ‘HR’.
“This is definitely the worst natural disaster Hawaii has ever faced. We can only wait and support the residents. Our focus now is to gather people if we can and give them homes and give them medical care , and then continue to rebuild,” he said in front of the press, Governor Josh Green.
At least two other fires have been reported on Maui, with no deaths so far, in the Kihei area, south of the county, and in mountain communities, known as the Upcountry. A fourth fire was extinguished Friday in Kaanapali, a coastal town north of Lahaina.
Hawaii: Evacuated locals return to a completely burned Lahaina
A disaster that exceeded the capacity of the authorities
The National Weather Service explained on Friday, August 11, that Hurricane Dora, which passed south of the island chain, was one of the causes of the strong winds that caused the fire. In the first phase of the fire, part of the province was left without electricity and the flame-fighting helicopter could not fly to respond quickly to the emergency.
Hawaii emergency management records could not confirm whether warning sirens sounded before the fire hit the city.
Authorities sent alerts to cellphones, television and radio stations, but widespread power outages may limit the message’s reach.
“It surpassed anything the firefighters could do in the first few hours, It moves horizontally, from structure to structure, and very quickly. It was a grass-fed fire from all the evidence we could see,” said US Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell.
Fire suppression efforts in Maui may be hampered by staff shortages.
Bobby Lee, president of the Hawaii Firefighters Association, said there are a maximum of 65 firefighters in the county working, and they are responsible for three islands: Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
With this explanation, the authorities tried to understand that the firefighters did “everything possible” amid the raging fire. Lahaina resident Riley Curran said officials “couldn’t do anything else,” due to the intensity of the fire. He fled his home after seeing fire coming from the roof of the neighboring building.
“It’s not like people are not trying to do anything. The fire goes from zero to 100 in seconds,” explained Curran.
Maui water officials are warning residents of Lahaina and Kula not to drink tap water, saying it can be contaminated, even if it is boiled. They recommend that they only take short, hot showers in well-ventilated rooms to avoid possible exposure to chemical vapors.
Meanwhile, as the death toll rises rapidly, the health authorities do not yet know how to accommodate the deaths, as there is only one hospital and three morgues.