The tragic toll of the fire on the Hawaiian island of Maui is growing. Local authorities on Saturday local time reported 89 dead, but there could be more. The ruins of the almost completely destroyed resort of Lahaina are being searched. It is estimated that there may be around 1,000 missing.
The death toll on Maui, Hawaii’s second largest island, has risen to 89, making it the deadliest wildfire in the United States in more than a century. The most tragic so far was the fire in 2018 in the city of Paradise, California, which killed 85 people. In 1918, fires in Minnesota and Wisconsin claimed 453 lives, Reuters reported.
The fire broke out on Tuesday night local time in the Kula area, about 35 kilometers from the almost completely burned resort of Lahaina, the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii in the 19th century. The scale of the conflagration became even more apparent on Saturday as search teams with dogs searched through the ashes of this historic city.
About 1,000 may be missing
Governor Josh Green warned that as the operation expanded, rescuers could find more and more people who were previously missing. NBC said that according to some estimates, there could be as many as 1,000 missing.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the cost of rebuilding Lahaina was estimated at $5.5 billion. More than 2,200 objects were damaged or destroyed, and more than 850 hectares of land burned.
Residents complain about the lack of warnings
Officials pledged to investigate the state’s emergency notification systems after some residents complained that more could have been done to warn people before the fire engulfed their homes, Reuters wrote. As the agency added, the sirens on the island, which were supposed to alert about impending natural disasters, did not sound. Widespread power and mobile phone outages made other forms of warning difficult.
The New York Times pointed out that a number of law firms have announced plans to represent fire victims, including at least one in a potential class action lawsuit. Lawyers suspect the state’s largest power company, Hawaiian Electric, may be to blame for spreading the fire. It is also alleged that the plant did not plan to cut power to prevent further outbreaks of fire, even after flames began to engulf the island.
There were warnings about fires earlier. The “NYT” recalled that Maui County’s 2020 Hazard Mitigation Plan lists the West Maui area – where Lahaina is located – as having the highest fire probability of any community in that county.
Among the factors that contributed to the rapid spread of the flames, there are also strong winds, blowing with gusts up to 130 kilometers per hour, associated with a hurricane passing near Hawaii, and dry vegetation on the island.
PAP, Reuters, tvnmeteo.pl
Main photo source: PAP/EPA/HAWAII DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES HANDOUT