They are among the specialists who have been travelling to Maui this week to help with the arduous task of finding and identifying the at least 101 persons who passed away last week in the famed Lahaina, Hawaii, town.
Hawaii’s governor, Josh Green, warned in an interview with CNN on Monday that “over the next 10 days, this number could double.” “Our people are working so hard right now that I don’t want to really guess at a number.”
Many of the people being called on to help played similar roles in the aftermath of the Camp fire, the 2018 disaster in Northern California that killed 85 people and reduced to ash the town of Paradise, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
On Monday, Kim Gin, the former coroner for Sacramento County, who oversaw the process of identifying the remains of Camp fire victims, flew into Maui. California State University, Chico forensic anthropologists who helped during the Camp fire were rushing this week to make travel arrangements to Hawaii.
Additionally, scientists from the Colorado-based ANDE corporation have been in Hawaii for days, and more technicians are on the way. ANDE uses quick DNA technology, which produces results in less than two hours with a device the size of a laser printer.
Also in Lahaina are rescuers who worked in the rubble of the World Trade Center after Sept. 11, Maui’s police chief, John Pelletier, said. Twenty cadaver dogs are working with search teams, along with a specialized mortuary unit from the federal government that arrived with a 22-ton mobile morgue that includes examination tables, lab equipment and X-ray machines.
At a news conference on Monday, Chief Pelletier remarked, “I understand people want numbers. “It’s not a game of numbers.”
The hunt for other casualties was ongoing as of Tuesday night in Hawaii, and none of the 101 persons whose deaths have been confirmed have been publicly identified by the authorities.
While teams searched for remains, the area in Lahaina, which stretches from the hillsides to the Pacific Ocean, was closed to the public and the authorities reported on Tuesday that they had searched 32% of the burn zone. Residents grew increasingly frustrated at being unable to return to Lahaina to check on their properties.
Chief Pelletier said one person had been arrested on a trespassing charge, and he had a message for others who might try to enter the area illegally. “It’s not just ash on your clothing when you take it off,” he said. “It’s our loved ones.”
The police have asked family members of the missing to submit DNA swabs at a community center in Maui for comparisons to recovered remains. Chief Pelletier asked relatives who are out of state to provide DNA to their local law enforcement agencies.
The figures to date demonstrate how meticulous and slowly the procedure is. Four of the 101 victims that have been confirmed have been named. Examiners have been able to obtain DNA profiles from 13 victims, and thus far, 41 DNA samples from missing persons’ families have been received.
Others have been looking for lost and deceased pets while recovery teams look for human remains. The CEO of the Maui Humane Society, Lisa Labrecque, stated that “people are desperately looking for pets.”
According to Ms. Labrecque, 367 reports of missing pets were made to her organisation, and she believed that 3,000 animals had been lost. She claimed that every day, her teams had been saving displaced or injured animals. 12 of the 57 live animals they have retrieved are being treated in hospitals. Eight animals have been reunited with their owners thanks to them. The Humane Society was transporting animals that had been residing in its shelters prior to the fire to the mainland to clear room. Over 150 cats and kittens have already been transported out, and 100 dogs were waiting to travel.