The wildfires on the island of Maui, Hawaii have become the deadliest disaster in the state’s history, with the death toll climbing to 55. Hawaii Governor Josh Green announced that search and recovery efforts are underway for the approximately 1,000 people who are still unaccounted for. So far, officials have only searched for individuals outside of buildings and are awaiting support teams, including cadaver dogs, to search the interior of buildings. The lack of power, internet, phones, and radios has made it difficult to communicate with those who are unaccounted for, leaving their safety unclear.
The historic town of Lahaina has been particularly devastated by the wildfires, with over 1,700 buildings destroyed and billions of dollars in property damage. Maui Mayor Richard Bissen stated that the entire town has been wiped out and nothing remains. The wildfire spread rapidly, catching residents off guard and leaving them with no other choice but to jump into the ocean to escape the flames. Ydriss Nouara, a resident of Lahaina, recalled hearing screams of horror as the fires approached the town. He spent three hours in the water, trying to avoid burning and debris, before being rescued.
Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden are monitoring the situation in Hawaii but do not plan to visit yet in order to avoid diverting resources from the victims and first responders. However, they are deeply concerned about what is happening in Maui and are coordinating federal resources to support the ongoing efforts.
The County of Maui provided updates on the firefighting and recovery efforts. Firefighters from the Honolulu Fire Department, along with supervisory personnel, vehicles, and a search and rescue team, are working to extinguish flare-ups and contain fires in different areas of Maui. FEMA search-and-rescue teams and cadaver dogs have also arrived to help with recovery efforts.
Despite the progress being made, there is still a possibility for the death toll to rise. The interior of buildings has yet to be searched, and authorities are waiting for assistance from FEMA officials. In the meantime, the Hawaii Tourism Authority is asking non-essential travelers to cancel or return home so that hotels can be used to provide shelter for those who have lost their homes.
Jason Momoa, an actor from Hawaii, expressed his devastation and heartbreak for those impacted by the wildfires and shared resources on social media to assist in the search, recovery, and rebuilding efforts. Cadaver dogs from California and Washington are currently in Maui to aid in the search and rescue operations. The devastation caused by the wildfires is significant, and officials are working tirelessly to support the affected communities.