The death toll from fast-moving wildfires in Maui rose to 89 on Saturday, making them the deadliest in the US in more than 100 years.
(Bloomberg) — The death toll from fast-moving wildfires in Maui rose to 89 on Saturday, making them the deadliest in the US in more than 100 years.
The number of fatalities, which previously stood at 80, is expected to climb further as authorities continue search and rescue efforts, Hawaii Governor Josh Green said at a press briefing Saturday. Just 3% of the area has been searched, officials said, adding they are bringing in 12 more cadaver dogs to help with the effort.
“This is the largest natural disaster we’ve ever experienced,” Green said. “It’s also going to be a natural disaster that takes an incredible amount of time to recover from.”
The death toll now means the wildfire is the deadliest since 1918, when 453 people were killed in Minnesota and Wisconsin by the Cloquet & Moose Lake Fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Losses are estimated to be approaching $6 billion, after roughly 2,200 structures were destroyed in West Maui across the 2,170 acres burned by the blaze.
13 Photos Show the Destructive Force of Wildfires in Maui
Only two of the 89 people killed have been identified so far, Police Chief John Pelletier said. Efforts to identify the dead were complicated by the ferocity of the blaze, which melted metal and razed Lahaina, once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Roughly 1,000 people were unaccounted for, they earlier estimated.
One of three power transmission lines have been restored, providing 3,700 customers with power, Green said. Two Wifi trucks were providing services amid downed communication lines, according to the county’s website.
Local authorities are starting work on long-term recovery efforts, including housing Maui residents who have been displaced. A temporary housing task force has secured 1,000 hotel rooms, half of which will be used to house residents and the remainder provided to aid workers.
Four days on, it remains unclear what sparked the deadly blaze, which had been fanned by hurricane-force winds, and whether more could have been done to warn residents. Green said the state attorney general is conducting a comprehensive review of events and decisions in the run-up to and during the blaze, though he cautioned it would take a long time before any official determination was reached.
“The largest force at play that night were 80 mile/hour winds. That created an incredibly intense and dangerous circumstance,” Green said. “Having seen that storm, we have doubts that much could have been done with a fast-moving fire like that.”
Read more: In Search for Cause of Hawaii Fires, Lawyers Probe Power Lines
–With assistance from Millie Munshi.
(Updates with comments from officials.)
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