Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

Recovery crews combing through homes and vehicles burned to a cinder in Hawaii are likely to find 10 to 20 more victims per day, the governor has warned.

The death toll grew to 96 on Sunday, making this the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century.

Governor Josh Green told CBS News it could take up to 10 days to learn the full death toll.

Nearly the entire town of Lahaina was destroyed in the fire.

“There is nothing to see except full devastation,” Mr Green told CBS, the BBC’s US news partner, on Sunday.

He added that all residents of Lahaina – home to 12,000 people – have likely escaped or perished in the fire. He said crews will likely discover more victims and that it will take time to identify them.

“It’s hard to recognise anybody,” Mr Green said.

As of Saturday, officials in Lahaina said only 3% of the town had been searched so far. They have been using the help of cadaver dogs to find additional victims.

“We’ve got an area that we have to contain that is at least five square miles, and it is full of our loved ones,” said Maui Police Chief Jeff Pelletier at a weekend news conference.

A total of 10 search dogs have been deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) search and rescue teams, the agency told CNN.

Several have also been sent from Southern California fire departments, officials told reporters.

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, on Monday, declined to give an exact estimate of how long the search and recovery mission would take calling the situation “extremely hazardous”.

“The dogs can only work so long because of how hot the temperatures are,” said Ms Criswell, participating in the White House daily press briefing remotely from Hawaii. “There are also hot spots and so we have fire crews that are helping to pull down the area so the dogs can go in there.”

The dogs are very effective at finding human remains, experts say, but do need to rest and hydrate often between searches.

Only two victims of the known 96 have been officially identified so far thanks to DNA technology, Chief Pelletier said.

At one point, there were more than 2,000 people who had been reported missing since the fire broke out on the island of Maui last week.

Mr Green said the number of missing now stands at around 1,300, as people have been able to reconnect with one another after access to cell phone service improved.

“Our hearts will break beyond repair if that means that many more are dead,” he said. “None of us think that, but we are prepared for many tragic stories.”

Chief Pelletier has encouraged people with missing family members to submit DNA samples to help with search efforts.

He also urged patience for those looking to enter the town, as there are still remains that need to be recovered and identified.

“When we find our family and friends, the remains we’re finding is through a fire that melted metal,” he said. “We have to do rapid DNA to identify them. Every one of these … are John and Jane Does.”

The deadly fire in Lahaina is still burning and is about 85% contained, according to Maui County officials. How the fire started remains unconfirmed, though it was fuelled by winds from nearby Hurricane Dora and drought conditions.

A class-action lawsuit was filed on Saturday against Hawaii’s largest electricity provider, Hawaii Electric, which alleges the company’s downed power lines contributed to the wildfires.

The lawsuit accuses the company of failing to shut off the downed lines despite advanced warning from the National Weather Service cautioning that Hawaii was under high alert for wildfires.

Temporarily shutting off power to reduce fire risk is a tactic used in western US states, where wildfires are common. In California, power lines have been blamed for half of the state’s most destructive wildfires.

BBC

By Admin

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