Dozens more could be dead in Hawaii wildfires, governor warns

US

Hawaii’s governor has warned that dozens more could be dead on the island of Maui following devastating wildfires – which have already claimed the lives of 96 people.

“We are prepared for many tragic stories,” Governor Josh Green told US media on Monday.

“They will find 10 to 20 people per day, probably, until they finish. And it’s probably going to take 10 days. It’s impossible to guess, really.”

Cadaver dogs and dozens of searchers have been sweeping through homes and buildings reduced to ash by the wildfires.

“Right now, they’re going street by street, block by block between cars, and soon they’ll start to enter buildings,” Jeff Hickman, director of public affairs for the Hawaii Department of Defence told NBC’s Today.

Destroyed homes and vehicles are seen in a neighborhood, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii, following a deadly wildfire that caused heavy damage days earlier. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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Pic: AP

Donated clothes are gathered in a parking lot, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii, following heavy damage caused by wildfire in the area. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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Donated clothes are gathered in a car park in Lahaina, Hawaii. Pic: AP

Fires continue to burn on the island, including one wildfire in the centrally located Upcountry area, which is still only 60% contained.

Hot spots in ditches and other hard to reach places have made controlling the fire difficult, according to officials in their latest update.

Firefighters say the Lahaina blaze is now 85% contained, while wildfires in the Pulehu and Kaanapali areas have now been 100% contained.

The town of Lahaina has been the worst hit area, with nearly every building in the town of 13,000 people destroyed.

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Hotels are being made available for locals who have been displaced by the fire – while aid workers will also be put up in rooms as the recovery efforts continue.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has started to provide $700 (£550) to displaced residents to cover the cost of food, water, first aid and medical supplies, agency administrator Deanne Criswell said Monday.

A map showing the location of Maui
Image:
A map showing the location of Maui

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“We’re not taking anything off the table, and we’re going to be very creative in how we use our authorities to help build communities and help people find a place to stay for the longer term,” Criswell said.

British rock star Mick Fleetwood, who has lived in Hawaii for decades, described the situation in Lahaina as “catastrophic”.

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‘Catastrophic’ Hawaii wildfires

The Fleetwood Mac drummer told Sky News that the disaster had been “an incredible shock for everyone” – and described the scene as “complete devastation”.

Fleetwood revealed he was in LA visiting family when the fires broke out but flew back immediately, bringing supplies with him.

His house was untouched but the town of Lahaina, where he owns a popular restaurant, has been decimated.

His restaurant, Fleetwood’s on Front St, was about to celebrate its 11th anniversary this week – but it has been destroyed by the blaze, and many of his staff have lost everything.

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Gusts of up to 85mph and dry conditions helped fuel the flames and prevented helicopters aiding the efforts of firefighters to contain the blaze, according to officials.

Experts say a lot of the landscape of Maui is now covered in “highly flammable grass species” as people have moved away from farming, while others have warned climate change is increasing the likelihood of more extreme weather.

The five deadliest wildfires in US history

1871: Peshtigo, Wisconsin – 1,152

1918: Cloquet, Minnesota – 453

1894: Hinckley, Minnesota – 418

1881: Thumb, Michigan – 282

2023: Maui, Hawaii – 96 (final toll yet to be confirmed)

Source: National Fire Protection Association

The fire is the deadliest wildfire that the US has seen in more than 100 years – surpassing the 85 who died in California’s Camp Fire in 2018 – while Governor Green said it was the largest natural disaster the US state had ever faced.

The deadliest fire in US history was in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, in 1871, which killed more than 1,150 people.

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