A Hawaiian broadcaster said anyone who went back to watch the devastation was likely walking on bones.
LAHAINA, Hawaii – Hawaiian officials worked hard to identify 99 people confirmed dead in the wildfires ravaging Maui and is expected to announce the first names on Tuesday, even as teams ramp up the search for more deaths in nearby areas that have already been charred.
A week after the fire tore through Historical LahainaMany survivors have begun moving into hundreds of hotel rooms for displaced locals.
The sheriff said Monday that dog teams have searched about 25% of the search area. Governor Josh Green asked for patience and space to properly conduct a search as authorities became overwhelmed with requests to visit the burned area.
“For those who have entered Lahaina because they really want to see, know that they are most likely walking on iwi,” he said at a press conference on Maui, using the Hawaiian word for “ bone”.
According to Maui Police Chief John Pelletier, who has renewed appeals to families of missing loved ones to provide DNA samples so far, only three bodies have been identified and officials will begin releasing names on Tuesday. .
Green warned that more bodies could be found. The wildfires, some of which are still not fully contained, have become the deadliest wildfire in the United States in more than a century. The cause is under investigation.
Authorities have halted a system that allows Lahaina residents and others to visit devastated areas with a police permit. Kevin Eliason said when he was turned down, the line of cars with people waiting for signs was at least 3 miles (5 km) long.
“It was a joke,” Eliason said. “This is crazy. They didn’t expect, perhaps, tens of thousands of people to show up there.”
That fire swept up in Lahaina for centuries last week destroyed nearly every building in the town of 13,000 people. According to the county, that fire was 85% contained. Another fire known as the Upcountry fire was 65% contained.
Even after the flames have receded, authorities have warned that toxic byproducts may remain, including in drinking water, following the blaze. spray toxic smoke. That has left hundreds of people unable to return home.
The Red Cross said 575 evacuees were spread across five shelters on Monday, including the War Memorial Arena in Wailuku. Green says thousands of people will need housing for at least 36 weeks.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than 3,000 people have signed up for federal assistance, and that number is expected to grow.
“We’re not going to remove anything and we’re going to be very creative in the way we use our authorities to help build communities and help people find a place to stay,” he said. agency administrator Deanne Criswell said.
FEMA has begun providing $700 to displaced residents to cover the cost of food, water, first aid, and medical supplies. This amount is in addition to any amount eligible residents receive for damage to their home and personal property.
The Biden administration is seeking an additional $12 billion in government disaster relief funds as part of a request for additional funding before Congress.
Meanwhile, the local power company has faced criticism for not shutting off power when strong winds blew through an arid area with a high fire risk. It’s unclear if the company’s equipment played any role in igniting the flames.
President and CEO Shelee Kimura said Hawaiian Electric Co. Inc. will cooperate with the state investigation as well as conduct its own investigation.
Kimura said many factors drive the decision to cut power, including the impact on people who depend on specialized medical equipment. She also noted that power cuts in the fire area could damage the water pump.
“Even in places where this has been used, it is controversial and not widely accepted,” she said.
As firefighters battled the blaze last week, a series of court actions were launched over access to water.
Some state officials say there isn’t enough water for firefighters in central Maui and blame it on a recent ruling by an environmental court judge. The ruling does not directly affect Lahaina’s water supplies, the attorney general’s office said Monday.
On Wednesday morning, Judge Jeffrey Crabtree issued an order temporarily suspending the water cap he imposed for 48 hours. The judge also authorized the distribution of water at the request of Maui, county or state fire officials until further notice if he could not be reached.
But that wasn’t enough for the state attorney general’s office, which later filed a petition in the state Supreme Court blaming Crabtree for a lack of fire-fighting water. The state has asked the court not to allow Crabtree to change the amount of water diverted or suspend his restrictions until the lawsuit is resolved.
It’s part of a long battle between environmentalists and private companies over the decades-long practice of diverting water from streams that began with sugarcane cultivation in Hawaii.
Kelleher reports from Honolulu, and Weber from Los Angeles. journalists for the Associated Press Haven Daley in Kalapua, Hawaii; Beatrice Dupuy in New York; and Josh Boak in Washington contributed.