Hawaii wildfire death toll approaches 100 and is expected to DOUBLE – as shocking new video shows terrified residents clinging to the shoreline while burning ash rains down on them
- Authorities are expected to announce the identities of more victims on Tuesday
- The intensity of the wildfires has made searches and identification more difficult
- More video has emerged of desperate attempts by Lahaina residents to flee
Hawaii authorities were painstakingly working on Tuesday to identify 99 confirmed victims of the horrific wildfires in Maui amid warnings the death toll is likely to double as search efforts continue.
Officials are expected to announce the identities of several more victims today.
Currently only three people have been formally identified and the work has been hampered because many of the remains are so badly burned.
The grim developments come as more footage emerged of locals’ desperate attempts to flee the wildfires that spiraled out of control a week ago.
A video captured by a resident in Lahaina, the historic town razed by the fires, shows a large group of people clinging to the shoreline as they are engulfed by cloud of ash, embers and smoke.
Denny Yuckert, the man who filmed the video, said the group cowered for several hours, nearly choking on the smoke.
A post shared by Melissa Adan Vargas (@melissaadan)
Dozens of people clung to the shoreline in Lahaina as wildfires tore through the town last week
A small number of active-duty U.S. Marines joined the effort to assist Maui’s recovery amid criticism of the response, which residents have branded slow and inadequate.
Crews from Marine Aerial Refueler Squadron 153 flew active-duty service members from Oahu to Maui on Monday to establish a command-and-control element that will coordinate further U.S. military support.
The Hawaii National Guard, U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are already on the ground, but a larger U.S. active duty response needs a formal request from Hawaii to begin operations there. The establishment of a cell could signal a wider Defense Department effort is about to begin.
On Monday, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the military wants to help but did not want to rush in personnel without coordination, so as to not create further logistical problems for recovery efforts.
Many who survived have started moving into hundreds of hotel rooms set aside for displaced locals.
Search crews had covered about 25 percent of the search area, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said on Monday. That is up from only three percent on Saturday.
Governor Josh Green previously said that he expects ’10 to 20′ bodies will recovered daily in an operation that’s expected to last around ten days. Around 1,300 remained missing on Sunday, he said.
The blaze that swept into centuries-old Lahaina last week destroyed nearly every building in the town of 13,000.
Around 86 percent of the roughly 2,200 ruined buildings were residential and the value of wrecked property has been estimated at more than $5 billion.
Franklin ‘Frankie’ Trejos, 68, died trying to shelter Sam, a golden retriever. Both was found dead inside a car
Clyde Wakida is pictured with his wife of 46 years, Penny. He died trying to save the house they built together 35 years ago
Carole Hartley, 60, from Alabama, was one of the first wildfire victims to be identified
The governor asked for patience and space to do the search properly as authorities became overwhelmed with requests to visit the burn area.
‘For those people who have walked into Lahaina because they really wanted to see, know that they’re very likely walking on iwi,’ he said at a news conference on Maui, using the Hawaiian word for bones.
The fire has been 85% contained, according to the county. Another blaze known as the Upcountry fire has been 65% contained.
Even where the fire has retreated, authorities have warned that toxic byproducts may remain, including in drinking water, after the flames spewed poisonous fumes. That has left hundreds unable to return home.
The Red Cross said 575 evacuees were spread across five shelters on Monday, including the War Memorial Gymnasium in Wailuku. Green said that thousands of people will need housing for at least 36 weeks.
More than 3,000 people have registered for federal assistance, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and that number was expected to grow.
‘We’re not taking anything off the table, and we’re going to be very creative in how we use our authorities to help build communities and help people find a place to stay for the longer term,’ agency administrator Deanne Criswell said.
FEMA has started to provide $700 to displaced residents to cover the cost of food, water, first aid and medical supplies. The money is in addition to whatever amount residents qualify for to cover the loss of homes and personal property.
Survivors gathered for a Sunday church service at the Maui Coffee Attic in Wailuku, Maui. The Grace Baptist Church burnt down in the wildfire
A man holding a young child prayed with the crowd Sunday morning as aid continued to pour in from surrounding communities
The Biden administration is seeking $12 billion more for the government’s disaster relief fund as part of its supplemental funding request to Congress.
Meanwhile, the local power utility has faced criticism for not shutting off power as strong winds buffeted a parched area under high risk for fire. It’s not clear whether the utility’s equipment played any role in igniting the flames.
Hawaiian Electric Co. Inc. will cooperate with the state’s investigation as well as conducting its own, President and CEO Shelee Kimura said.
Kimura said many factors go into a decision to cut power, including the impact on people who rely on specialized medical equipment. She also noted that shutting off power in the fire area would have knocked out water pumps.
‘Even in places where this has been used, it is controversial and it’s not universally accepted,’ she said.
Fueled by dry grass and propelled by strong winds from a passing hurricane, the flames on Maui raced as fast as a mile (1.6 kilometers) every minute in one area, according to Green.
As firefighters battled the flames last week, a flurry of court actions were lodged over access to water.
Some state officials say there is not enough water available for firefighters in central Maui, and blame a recent ruling by an environmental court judge. The ruling did not directly affect water supplies to Lahaina, the attorney general’s office said Monday.
On Wednesday morning, Judge Jeffrey Crabtree issued an order temporarily suspending water caps he imposed for 48 hours. The judge also authorized water distribution as requested by Maui fire officials, the county or the state until further notice if he could not be reached.
Also killed were Faaso and Malui’s adult daughter Salote Takafua and her son Tony
Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone were found dead in their car Thursday as they tried to escape the devastating blaze that destroyed virtually all of Lahaina
But that wasn’t enough for the state attorney general’s office, which later filed a petition with the state Supreme Court blaming Crabtree for a lack of water for firefighting. The state asked the court not to let Crabtree alter the amount of water to be diverted or to put a hold on his restrictions until the petition is resolved.
It’s part of a long-running battle between environmentalists and private companies over the decades-long practice of diverting water from streams that started during Hawaii’s sugar plantation past.
There was anger in Lahaina on Tuesday as residents said they’d been approached by investors looking to buy up land burned in the fires. The governor also stepped in to criticize the attempts and said he would try to block them.
Green’s office said ‘residents are being approached about selling fire-damaged home sites, by people posing as real estate agents who may have ill intent’.
‘I’ve reached out to the Attorney General to explore options to do a moratorium on any sales of properties that have been damaged or destroyed,’ he said.
‘Moreover, I would caution people that it’s going to be a very long time, before any growth, or housing can be built. And so, you would be pretty poorly informed if you try to steal land from our people and then build here.’
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