West News Wire: The death toll from the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century has been growing as crews in west Maui continue the heartbreaking task of sorting through the remains of once-loved houses and monuments.
There have been at least 93 confirmed deaths from fires so far, and there are still many others missing as search teams with cadaver dogs comb through the destroyed neighbourhoods in search of the dead.
The destruction is what remains after numerous, concurrent wildfires started spreading wildly on Tuesday, suddenly jumping onto and devouring homes, prompting perilous escapes, and uprooting thousands of people.
“This is the largest natural disaster we’ve ever experienced,” Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said at a Saturday night news conference. “It’s going to also be a natural disaster that’s going to take an incredible amount of time to recover from.”
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency earlier on Saturday said it was premature to assign even an approximate dollar amount to the damage done on Maui, the governor estimated that “the losses approach $6 billion.”
Even as authorities take stock of the losses and work gets underway to identify lost loved ones, the firefight hasn’t stopped.
The three main flames are under control, but the deadly fire in severely damaged Lahaina is still not completely out of control, according to Maui County Fire Chief Brad Ventura on Saturday.
The governor stated in a video update on Sunday afternoon that the Lahaina wildfire, the most lethal and devastating of the flames, was moving extremely quickly.
Fires spread quickly as the winds picked up, Green claimed gusts reached 81 miles per hour. We estimate that the speed of the fire in that area of the island was between 60 and 81 miles per hour, or one mile per minute.
On Monday, the meteorological service issued “a red flag warning” as parched lands, strong winds, and low humidity levels conspired to lay the stage for severe weather.
By Tuesday afternoon, winds associated with powerful Hurricane Dora passing hundreds of miles south of Hawaii were fanning the flames of already burning wildfires and multiple evacuations were announced for the Lahaina and Upcountry Maui fires.
The flames jumped across highways and suddenly showed up in people’s yards and homes.
“It was a very fast-moving fire,” US Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell said at the Saturday news conference.
The fire was spreading “low to the ground and structure to structure incredibly fast that outpaced anything the firefighters could have done in the early hours,” she continued.
The 2,170 acre Lahaina fire was 85% contained as of 3 pm local time on Sunday. The Upcountry or Kula fire, which had reportedly burned 678 acres, was 60% contained at the time.
According to Green, the fires in western Maui, where the hard-hit historic town of Lahaina is located, have burned or damaged almost 2,200 structures. Approximately 86% of the buildings were homes, he added.
Maui County Mayor Richard T. Bissen Jr. has stated that the “older neighbourhood” of Lahaina, a major economic centre in western Maui that annually attracted millions of tourists, has been devastated.
According to fresh satellite footage from Maxar Technologies, the flames have also destroyed historical and cultural monuments in Lahaina.
Neighbourhoods were destroyed by fires, which also destroyed everything in their path.
“Rebuilding Lahaina will take a long time. You will be shocked when you realise how completely destroyed Lahaina is, Green said last week.
According to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, thousands of people have been forced to flee the destruction. According to Maui County officials, a total of 1,418 people were staying at emergency evacuation shelters as of Friday night.
Only two of the dozens of persons who were discovered dead around the burn area had been recognised as of Saturday, according to Maui County.
It won’t be simple to identify everyone, according to the officials.
As of Saturday night, just 3% of the fire zone had been searched with cadaver dogs, Pelletier said, adding, “None of us really know the size of it yet.”