LAHAINA, Hawaii – The governor of Hawaii has warned that dozens more people could be found dead in the wake of the Maui wildfires as search teams comb street by street through neighborhoods where the flames were galloping as fast as one mile per minute across the island.
The fires that have ravaged most of historic Lahaina are already the deadliest in the United States in more than a century, with the death toll at least 96.
“We are ready for many tragic stories,” Gov. Josh Green told “CBS Mornings” in a taped interview that aired Monday. “They’ll find 10-20 people a day, probably, until they’re done. And it’s probably going to take 10 days. It’s impossible to guess, really.
As cellphone service was slowly restored, the number of missing people fell to around 1,300 from more than 2,000, Green said.
About twenty corpses of dogs and dozens of researchers make their way through blocks reduced to ashes.
“Right now they’re going street by street, block by block between cars, and soon they’ll start entering buildings,” Jeff Hickman, director of public affairs for the Hawaii Department of Defense, told NBC on Monday. Today”. ”
Green said on Sunday that 500 hotel rooms will be made available to residents who have been displaced. An additional 500 rooms will be set aside for Federal Emergency Management Agency workers helping with the recovery.
In addition, FEMA has begun providing $700 to displaced residents to cover the cost of food, water, first aid and medical supplies, agency administrator Deanne Criswell said Monday. The money is in addition to the amount residents are entitled to to cover the loss of homes and personal property.
“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,” Criswell said.
The Biden administration is seeking an additional $12 billion for the government’s disaster relief fund as part of its request for additional funding from Congress.
The fire that swept through centuries-old Lahaina nearly a week ago destroyed nearly every building in the town of 13,000. That fire was 85% contained, according to the county. Another blaze known as the Upcountry Fire was 60% contained, officials said.
“There’s very little left there,” Green said of Lahaina in a video update on Sunday, adding that “an estimated $5.6 billion is gone.”
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. And a lot of people just don’t have a home to go back to. Authorities plan to house them in hotels and vacation rentals.
Many people gathered at the War Memorial Gymnasium in Wailuku, which serves as a shelter. Among the visitors was Oprah Winfrey, who told Hawaii News Now she had delivered personal hygiene products, towels and water in recent days.
Winfrey, a part-time Maui resident, warned that news crews would eventually walk away from the destruction and the world would go on. But she said “we’re all still going to be here trying to figure out what’s the best way to rebuild…I’ll be here for the long haul, doing what I can.”
The cause of the wildfires is under investigation, and Green said authorities will also review their response. A fire, for example, was considered extinguished, but reignited later. Before the fire engulfed Lahaina, Maui County officials also failed to activate sirens that would have warned the entire population and instead relied on social media posts.
Fueled by a dry summer and high winds from a passing hurricane, Maui’s blazes swept through parched brush. A fire was moving as fast as one mile (1.6 kilometers) per minute, according to Green.
“With those kind of winds and 1,000 degree temperatures, all the images you see will eventually be easy to understand,” he said.
Many gathered on Sunday to mourn the dead. Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina was spared the flames that wiped out most of the surrounding community, but with search and recovery efforts underway, its members attended mass down the road. The Bishop of Honolulu, the Reverend Clarence “Larry” Silva, presided.
Taufa Samisoni said her uncle, aunt, cousin and cousin’s 7-year-old son were found dead in a burnt-out car. Samisoni’s wife Katalina said the family would be comforted by Silva’s reference to the biblical story of how Jesus’ disciple Peter walked on water and was saved from drowning.
“If Peter can walk on water, yes we can. We’ll get to the shore,” she said in a trembling voice.
JP Mayoga, cook at the Westin Maui in Kaanapali, still prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. But instead of serving hotel guests, it feeds the approximately 200 hotel workers and their family members who have been living there since Tuesday.
His house and that of his father were spared. But his girlfriend, two young daughters, father and another resident are all staying together in a hotel room because it’s safer than Lahaina, which is covered in toxic debris.
“Everyone has their story and everyone has lost something. So everyone can be there for each other and they understand what’s going on in each other’s lives,” he said of his hotel colleagues.
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