Hawaiian authorities worked hard on Tuesday to identify 99 confirmed victims of the horrific Maui wildfires amid warnings that the death toll is likely to double as search efforts continue.
Officials are expected to announce the identities of several other victims today.
Currently, only three people have been officially identified and work has been hampered as many remains are badly burned.
The grim developments come as new footage has emerged of residents’ desperate attempts to flee wildfires that spiraled out of control a week ago.
Video captured by a resident of Lahaina, the historic town razed by the fires, shows a large group of people clinging to the shore as they are engulfed in a cloud of ash, embers and smoke.
Denny Yuckert, the man who filmed the video, said the group hunkered down for several hours, nearly choking on the smoke.
Dozens of people clung to the Lahaina shoreline as wildfires tore through the town last week
A small number of active-duty U.S. Marines have joined the effort to help Maui’s recovery amid criticism of the response, which residents have called slow and inadequate.
Crews from Marine Aerial Refueler Squadron 153 flew active duty personnel from Oahu to Maui on Monday to establish a command and control element that will coordinate U.S. military support.
The Hawaii National Guard, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are already on the ground, but a larger U.S. active duty response requires a formal request from Hawaii to begin operations there. . The creation of a cell could signal that a broader MoD effort is about to begin.
On Monday, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the Army wanted to help but didn’t want to rush uncoordinated personnel so as not to create new logistical problems for recovery efforts.
Many of those who survived began moving into hundreds of hotel rooms reserved for displaced residents.
Search crews had covered about 25% of the search area, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said Monday. That’s up just three percent on Saturday.
Gov. Josh Green previously said he expected “10 to 20” bodies to be recovered daily in an operation expected to last around ten days. About 1,300 people were still missing as of Sunday, he said.
The fire that swept through centuries-old Lahaina last week destroyed nearly every building in the town of 13,000.
About 86% of the approximately 2,200 ruined buildings were residential, and the value of destroyed property was estimated at over $5 billion.
Franklin ‘Frankie’ Trejos, 68, died trying to rescue Sam, a golden retriever. The two were found dead in a car
Clyde Wakida is pictured with his 46-year-old wife, Penny. He died trying to save the house they built together 35 years ago
Carole Hartley, 60, of Alabama, was one of the first wildfire victims to be identified
The governor asked for patience and space to conduct the search properly, as authorities were inundated with requests to visit the burned area.
“For those who walked into Lahaina because they really wanted to see, know that they’re most likely stepping on iwi,” he said at a news conference on Maui, using the Hawaiian word for the bone.
The fire was 85% contained, according to the county. Another fire known as the Upcountry Fire was 65% contained.
Even where the fire has receded, authorities have warned that toxic by-products could remain, including in drinking water, after the flames belched toxic fumes. This left hundreds of people unable to return home.
The Red Cross said 575 evacuees were spread across five shelters on Monday, including the War Memorial Gymnasium in Wailuku. Green said thousands of people will need housing for at least 36 weeks.
More than 3,000 people have registered for federal aid, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and that number is expected to rise.
“We’re not taking anything off the table and we’re going to be very creative in how we use our powers to help build communities and help people find longer-term housing,” the administrator said. agency, Deanne Criswell.
FEMA began providing $700 to displaced residents to cover the cost of food, water, first aid and medical supplies. The money is in addition to the amount residents are entitled to to cover the loss of homes and personal property.
Survivors gathered for a Sunday church service at the Maui Coffee Attic in Wailuku, Maui. Grace Baptist Church burnt down in wildfire
A man holding a young child prayed with the crowd on Sunday morning as help continued to pour in from surrounding communities
The Biden administration is asking for an additional $12 billion for the government’s disaster relief fund as part of its request for additional funding from Congress.
Meanwhile, the local power utility has been criticized for failing to shut off power as high winds buffeted a parched area at high fire risk. It is unclear whether utility equipment played a role in igniting the flames.
Hawaiian Electric Co. Inc. will cooperate with the state’s investigation and conduct its own, President and CEO Shelee Kimura said.
Kimura said many factors go into the decision to cut power, including the impact on people who depend on specialized medical equipment. She also noted that cutting power to the fire area would have knocked out the water pumps.
“Even in places where it’s been used, it’s controversial and not universally accepted,” she said.
Fueled by dry grass and propelled by high winds from a passing hurricane, Maui’s blazes raced as fast as one mile (1.6 kilometers) per minute in one area, according to Green.
As firefighters battled the blazes last week, a series of lawsuits were filed over access to water.
Some state officials say there is not enough water available for firefighters in central Maui and blame a recent decision by an environmental court judge. The decision did not directly affect Lahaina’s water supply, the attorney general’s office said Monday.
On Wednesday morning, Judge Jeffrey Crabtree issued an order temporarily suspending the water caps he imposed for 48 hours. The judge also authorized water distribution at the request of Maui, county or state firefighters until further notice if he could not be reached.
Faaso and Malui’s adult daughter, Salote Takafua, and her son Tony were also killed.
Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone were found dead in their car on Thursday as they tried to escape the devastating fire that destroyed almost all of Lahaina
But that wasn’t enough for the state attorney general’s office, which then filed a petition in the state Supreme Court accusing Crabtree of a lack of water for firefighting. The state asked the court not to let Crabtree change the amount of water to be diverted or to suspend its restrictions until the petition is resolved.
It’s part of a long-running battle between environmentalists and private companies over the decades-long practice of stream water diversion that began during Hawaii’s sugar cane plantation past.
There was anger in Lahaina on Tuesday as residents said they were approached by investors looking to buy land scorched in the fires. The governor also stepped in to criticize the attempts and said he would try to block them.
Green’s office said “residents are being approached to sell fire-damaged residential sites, by people posing as real estate agents who may have bad intentions.”
“I have contacted the Attorney General to explore options for imposing a moratorium on any sale of damaged or destroyed properties,” he said.
“Also, I would like to warn people that it will be a long time before any growth or housing development can be built. And so, you’d be pretty misinformed if you tried to steal land from our people and then build here.