Crews in West Maui are continuing the heart-wrenching work of sifting through the ashes of what used to be homes and beloved landmarks wiped out by the deadliest US wildfire in more than 100 years.
So far, at least 93 deaths have been confirmed and there’s still people unaccounted for as search teams look for remains in decimated neighborhoods.
The devastation is what’s left behind after multiple, simultaneous wildfires began spreading erratically Tuesday, suddenly jumping onto and engulfing homes, forcing harrowing escapes and displacing thousands.
While the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Saturday said it was premature to assign even an approximate dollar amount to the damage done on Maui, the governor estimated “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.
- Lahaina is hardest hit: Around 2,200 structures have been destroyed or damaged by the fires in western Maui, where the hard-hit historic town of Lahaina is located, according to Hawaii Gov. Josh Green. About 86% of the structures were residential, he added. The devastation has displaced thousands of people. As of Friday night, a total of 1,418 people were at emergency evacuation shelters, according to Maui County officials.
- Identifying all the victims won't be easy: Of the dozens found dead across the burn area, only two people had been identified as of Saturday, according to Maui County. “The remains we’re finding is through a fire that melted metal. We have to do rapid DNA to identify everyone,” Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said Saturday. He urged those with missing family members to contact authorities to coordinate a DNA test to assist in the identification process.
- People are still missing: As searches of the burned ruins continue, officials warn they do not know exactly how many people are still missing in the torched areas. 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.” While some have turned up in shelters, there are still families desperately searching for loved ones.
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