The number of people killed in wildfires on Maui, Hawaii has risen to 67, authorities said. The services – with the help of tracking dogs – are looking for the missing people, of whom there are about a thousand. The historic city of Lahaina, the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the 19th century, was almost completely destroyed.
Another day in Hawaii means another dozen or so deaths from devastating fires. Manui County authorities reported 12 more documented deaths on Friday, bringing the death toll to 67.
Hawaii Governor Josh Green warned on CNN that “there will undoubtedly be more deaths.” About a thousand people are considered missing.
Federal authorities brought in dogs to assist rescuers in searching for possible bodies under the rubble. According to estimates, more than a thousand buildings have been destroyed, and some roads are impassable.
“It’s hard not to be able to find the things you grew up with”
The fire almost completely destroyed the historic city of Lahaina, the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the 19th century. Homes, shops, cars: most of the features of this 12,000-resident seaside resort are nothing more than a heap of ashes in a near-ghost town, a reporter told AFP.
The survivors have been allowed to return to Lahaina and are slowly exploring the area, which looks like it has been bombed, AFP reports. One of the returnees, Anthony La Puente, found ashes in the place where his house used to be. “It’s hard not to be able to find the things you grew up with, the things you remember,” he told an AFP reporter.
Lahaina has a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. “to protect homes and properties” that remain, Maui County announced. The few residents whose homes were spared the flames told AFP they fear looting.
The most tragic natural disaster
President Joe Biden spoke with Governor Josh Green, the White House said on Friday. The president declared a state of emergency in Hawaii on Thursday, which will allow funding for relief and reconstruction.
These fires became the deadliest natural disaster in the state’s history. The most tragic so far was the tsunami that killed 61 people on the island of Hawai’i (Big Island) in 1960, a year after the archipelago joined the United States, Reuters noted.
The fire is still burning in some places, but for the most part the situation is under control. Firefighters are still battling to completely extinguish three ongoing wildfires on the island of Maui, authorities said. It added that this devastating conflagration comes in the middle of a summer marked by a series of extreme weather events across the planet.
Thomas Smith, a professor of environmental geography at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said the fires had spread in part because of Maui’s “particularly dry” vegetation, which saw below-average rainfall and warmer-than-normal temperatures this spring.
Main photo source: PAP/EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT