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Wildfire in Maui Hawaii the Deadliest US Has Encountered in 100 Years

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People in the Hawaiian vacation town of Maui scorched by a horrible blaze have expressed outrage as the death toll from the wildfires climbed to 93 on Saturday, officially making it the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century.

Officials warned that the death toll might rise further as search teams continued to comb through the debris of Lahaina town on Maui island. The resort town of almost 12,000 people has been reduced to rubble, with its vibrant hotels and restaurants reduced to ash.

Governor Josh Green announced at a news conference on Saturday that the number of confirmed deaths from the Maui wildfires had increased to 89, making it the worst US wildfire in more than 100 years. Maui County eventually raised the verified death toll to 93.

“It will continue to rise.” “We want to prepare people for that,” Green told Aljazeera.

“It will almost certainly be the worst natural disaster that Hawaii has ever faced,” Green remarked as he walked down historic Front Street.

The current death toll surpassed the 85 people died in a 2018 fire in Paradise, California, and was the most from a wildfire since 1918, when the Cloquet fire in Minnesota and Wisconsin killed 453 people.

Wildfire in Maui Hawaii

According to Maui Police Chief John Pelletier, just a portion of the catastrophe zone had been searched, and only two of the victims could be identified due to severe burns.

He also stated that cadaver dogs trained to detect bodies had barely covered 3% of the search area.

“The remains that we’re finding are from a fire that melted metal,” he explained. “We need to do rapid DNA [testing] to identify all of these.”

“They fall apart when we pick them up.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assessed the cost of rebuilding Lahaina at $5.5 billion, with over 2,200 structures damaged or destroyed and over 2,100 acres (850 hectares) burned.

“Our focus now is to reunite people when we can, get them housing, get them health care, and then turn to rebuilding,” Governor Green said, adding that it will take “an incredible amount of time” to recover.

There have been at least two other fires on Maui, with no fatalities reported so far: in south Maui’s Kihei neighbourhood and in the rugged, inland settlements known as Upcountry. A fourth fire broke out Friday evening in Kaanapali, a coastal village north of Lahaina, but firemen were able to put it out, authorities said.

Wildfire in Maui Hawaii

Green stated that the Upcountry fire had impacted 544 properties, with 96 percent of them being residential.

Hawaiian authorities have launched an investigation into the fire’s handling, with residents claiming there was no warning.

“The mountain behind us caught fire,” said Vilma Reed told Aljazeera. “Remember when we discovered there was a fire?” When it was right across the street.”

Reed, whose home was destroyed by the fire, said she was now reliant on handouts and strangers’ compassion.

“This is my home now,” the 63-year-old woman remarked, motioning to the car in which she has been sleeping with her daughter, grandson, and two cats.

Maui emergency management were looking for places to lodge persons who had been displaced from their houses. County officials announced on Facebook early Saturday that up to 4,500 people are in need of refuge, citing FEMA and the Pacific Disaster Centre numbers.

Wildfire in Maui Hawaii

According to Green, officials have secured 1,000 hotel rooms for people who have lost their houses and are preparing for rental properties to serve as lodging at no cost to families.

Over 1,400 individuals have taken refuge in emergency shelters. The sorrow of many who fled the fires was exacerbated on Saturday when they were barred from returning to their houses.

Members of the public will not be permitted into Lahaina until the impacted area has been pronounced safe, according to Maui police.

“Anyone entering the disaster area… is subject to a misdemeanour crime punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine,” according to the police.

After some locals questioned whether more might have been done to alert them before the fire engulfed their homes, officials agreed to investigate the state’s emergency communication systems. Some had to wade into the Pacific Ocean to escape.

Sirens stationed throughout the island to warn of imminent natural calamities never rang, and extensive power and mobile service disruptions impeded alternative types of notifications.

Hawaii Congresswoman Jill Tokuda told CNN that the tragedy had taken officials by surprise. “We underestimated the lethality, the quickness of fire,” she admitted.

Green, the governor, defended the quick response, claiming that the situation was compounded by the existence of many fires and the high winds.

“After seeing that storm, we have our doubts that a fiery fast-moving fire like that could have done much,” he said.
Examine the decision-making process

Anne Lopez, the state’s attorney general, announced a probe of the decisions made before and during the fire.

Wildfire in Maui Hawaii

Officials have described a nightmare confluence of factors, including communications network failures, wind gusts of up to 80 miles per hour (130kmph) from an offshore hurricane, and a separate wildfire dozens of kilometres away, that made real-time coordination with the emergency management agency that would normally issue warnings and evacuation orders nearly impossible.

According to local resident Skip Scott, severe winds caused “trees laying in the ground blocking streets,” resulting in a power outage on Tuesday morning. Fires, he added, “used that wind as its vessel for destruction” as they ripped through his area.

Wildfires raged across Maui, fueling by a dry summer and high winds from a passing hurricane.

“It outpaced anything firefighters could have done in the early hours,” US Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell said, adding that it moved horizontally and “incredibly fast.”

“It was a ground-level fire.” “All evidence that we could see today indicated that it was grass-fed,” she said.

The fires come on the heels of several extreme weather events in North America this summer, including record-breaking wildfires in Canada and a big heatwave in the US southwest.

High temperatures have also wreaked devastation throughout Europe and portions of Asia, with catastrophic fires and floods devastating havoc. According to scientists, human-caused global warming is worsening natural risks, making them more likely and lethal.

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