The raging wildfire swept through a picturesque town on the Hawaiian island of Maui earlier this week
A raging wildfire that swept through a picturesque town on the Hawaiian island of Maui this week has killed at least 89 people, making it the deadliest US wildfire of the past century.
The newly released figure surpassed the toll of the 2018 Camp Fire in northern California, which left 85 dead and destroyed the town of Paradise.
At least two other fires have been burning in Maui, with no fatalities reported so far: in south Maui’s Kihei area and in the mountainous, inland communities known as Upcountry.
A fourth fire broke out on Friday evening in Kaanapali, a coastal community in West Maui north of Lahaina, but crews were able to extinguish it, authorities said.
The new death toll on Saturday came as federal emergency workers with axes and cadaver dogs picked through the aftermath of the blaze, marking the ruins of homes with a bright orange X for an initial search and HR when they found human remains.
Dogs worked the rubble, and their occasional bark — used to alert their handlers to a possible corpse — echoed over the hot and colourless landscape.
The inferno that swept through the centuries-old town of Lahaina on Maui’s west coast four days earlier torched hundreds of homes and turned a lush, tropical area into a moonscape of ash. The state’s governor predicted more bodies will be found.
“It’s going to rise,” governor Josh Green said on Saturday as he toured the devastation on historic Front Street.
“It will certainly be the worst natural disaster that Hawaii ever faced. We can only wait and support those who are living. Our focus now is to reunite people when we can and get them housing and get them health care, and then turn to rebuilding.”
Those who escaped counted their blessings, thankful to be alive as they mourned those who did not make it.
Emergency managers in Maui were searching for places to house people displaced from their homes.
As many as 4,500 people are in need of shelter, county officials said on Facebook early on Saturday, citing figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pacific Disaster Center.
The wildfires are the state’s deadliest natural disaster in decades, surpassing a 1960 tsunami that killed 61 people. An even deadlier tsunami in 1946, which killed more than 150 people on the Big Island, prompted development of a territory-wide emergency alert system with sirens that are tested monthly.
Hawaii emergency management records do not indicate the warning sirens sounded before fire hit the town.
Officials sent alerts to mobile phones, televisions and radio stations, but widespread power and cellular outages may have limited their reach.
Published: by Radio NewsHub