At least 67 people have died in Hawaii as a result of the fast-moving and devastating wildfires that occurred this past week. However, as of Friday afternoon, this number is only based on people found outside of buildings. Richard Bissen, the mayor of Maui, stated that the death toll in Hawaii is only based on the number of people found outside, as officials are awaiting rescue, search, and recovery teams from FEMA to search the inside of buildings. These teams have better equipment for handling the hazmat conditions caused by the burned buildings. Mr. Bissen believes that the death toll could increase once the inside of buildings is properly searched.
State and federal assets, including search teams and cadaver dogs, arrived in Hawaii on Thursday evening and Friday morning to assist in the recovery efforts. Currently, the focus is on finding survivors as approximately 1,000 people are unaccounted for. Hawaii Governor Josh Green clarified on Thursday that those unaccounted for are not presumed dead, but rather, their safety is unclear due to the lack of communication.
Residents and visitors of Maui had little time to prepare for evacuation when the fast-moving wildfires struck the island on Tuesday and Wednesday. The fires, fueled by strong winds, spread rapidly. Witnesses described a chaotic and terrifying scene as people tried to escape the blaze. Some individuals even resorted to jumping into the ocean to avoid being burned.
As of Friday morning, the fires have not been contained, and firefighters from Honolulu and Maui are working to extinguish flare-ups in Lahaina, a historic town that was severely impacted. Photos from Lahaina and Maui show the devastation caused by the fires, with ash and soot covering the landscape and numerous structures completely burned down.
Despite the destruction, Mr. Bissen has expressed the intention to rebuild once the fires are contained. The priority for now remains on locating survivors and ensuring their safety. The search inside the buildings, which will be conducted by FEMA teams, is expected to provide a clearer picture of the true extent of the tragedy.