The death toll of the deadliest wildfire in the US in more than 100 years is increasing day by day. The last number announced was 99, but authorities believe that number will increase “very significantly” in the coming days. An official list of confirmed fatalities has yet to be released, but the media is citing some names and their stories.
Hawaii Governor Josh Green told CNN that the death toll, currently at 99, is likely to increase “very significantly” and could double in the next 10 days. At a time when the search of burnt buildings and areas continues, the services admit that it is difficult to even estimate the number of dead and injured. Some people considered missing may be waiting for help somewhere, not being able to contact their loved ones or the authorities.
According to Maui Police Chief John Pelletier, only a quarter of the area affected by the fire had been searched by Monday. Specially trained dogs participate in the action. “None of us know the extent of the tragedy yet,” the police officer added. An appeal has been sent to people whose loved ones have gone missing to provide DNA samples that will help in the possible identification of the corpse. “It was a fire that melted the metal,” Pelletier said, explaining the condition of the remains.
The element left thousands of people homeless. Nearly 1,500 people were in evacuation shelters on Friday night, according to Maui County officials. Governor Green said some of them had started leaving shelters as of Monday as more temporary housing was made available in hotels, Airbnbs and homes that survived the fire.
Franklin Trejos. He died trying to protect the dog
Franklin “Frankie” Trejos, 68, was among those killed in the Lahaina fire on Tuesday, his niece Kika Perez Grant told CNN. She added that after the fire subsided, her uncle’s friend called to say he was “unsure” if the man made it out alive. “We didn’t give up hope, but he called again and said he had found Uncle Frankie’s remains,” Perez Grant said.
The caller was retired fire captain Geoff Bogar, a friend of Franklin Trejos for 35 years. As the AP wrote, Trejos, a native of Costa Rica, moved to Maui in Bogar’s house. For a long time, he helped him take care of his seriously ill wife.
When the fire came on Tuesday, the two men did not initially flee, trying to save the property and help other Lahaina residents. But as the flames approached, they knew there was no time left. Everyone ran to their car. When Bogar’s vehicle wouldn’t start, the man broke a window and got out. He crawled until a police patrol found him. He went to the hospital.
He came back the next day. In his own car, he found the remains of a friend in the back seat, covering the body of Sam, Bogar’s three-year-old beloved golden retriever. Probably the man was trying to protect the dog. “Uncle Frankie was a good man, he loved nature, he loved animals, he loved his friends and family with all his heart,” said his niece Kika Perez Grant.
Carole Hartley. She would be celebrating her birthday soon
“She was a free spirit, always looking for the good in people and always helping others,” said another Maui fire victim, 60-year-old Carole Hartley, her older sister, Donna Gardner Hartley, told CNN.
Carole, who has lived in Lahaina for 36 years, and her partner Charles Paxton were separated while trying to escape the fire. According to the man’s account, quoted by the AP, he was packing things into the car in the driveway while the woman went to the back of the house, presumably to check on their tenant. Then the wind fanned the flames and the car exploded.
Charles was saved by friends. He organized a search party. The remains of the woman, as well as the watch she was wearing, were found over the weekend on the property where the couple lived.
“She would have turned 61 on August 28,” said Donna Hartley. “She used to tell me recently, ‘One more year, sister, and I’m retiring,'” she added.
Family of four. They found them in a burnt out car
While trying to escape the flames, four members of one family also died – married couple Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone, and Salote Takafua and her son Tony Takafua. Their remains were found Thursday in a burned-out car near their home.
“The extent of our grief is indescribable,” the family said in a statement.
“Loss and heartbreak are unbearable for many. We as a community just need to embrace each other and support our families, friends and our community as best we can,” Lylas Kanemoto, who knew those killed, wrote in a text message to the AP. He added that he himself was still waiting for news of his missing cousin, Glen Yoshino, “we hope for the best, but we are preparing for the worst,” he admitted.
A story that gives hope
However, there are also events that give hope to families waiting for their loved ones and believing that they survived. This is the story of a man who spoke after three days without any sign of life.
Brittany Talley received a photo of a fire raging on Maui from her grandfather, 66-year-old Timm “TK” Williams, on Wednesday last week. He sent them during the evacuation from Kaanapali. Then he stopped talking.
However, on Saturday, the man managed to find a place with sufficient coverage and texted him that he was safe. “Thousands of people are going through the worst moments of their lives right now, so getting a text was a small gesture but a huge blessing for my whole family,” Talley told CNN.
CNN, ABC News, Reuters tvnmeteo.pl
Main photo source: PAP/EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT