NATIONAL NEWS

Hawaii works to identify 99 confirmed dead after Maui wildfires as teams intensify search

Aug 15, 2023, 6:16 AM | Updated: 8:38 am

The charred remains of a vehicle sit near a wildfire-destroyed home Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, in Kula,...

The charred remains of a vehicle sit near a wildfire-destroyed home Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, in Kula, Hawaii. The same day a wildfire ripped through Lahaina, one tore through Kula, as well. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Hawaii officials worked painstakingly to identify the 99 people confirmed killed in wildfires that ravaged Maui and expected to release the first names Tuesday, even as teams intensified the search for more dead in neighborhoods reduced to ash.

A week after a blaze tore through historic Lahaina, many who survived have started moving into hundreds of hotel rooms set aside for displaced locals while donations of food, ice, water and other essentials have poured in.

Crews using cadaver dogs have scoured about 25% of the search area, the police chief said Monday. Gov. Josh Green 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.”

Just three bodies have been identified so far and officials will start releasing names on Tuesday, according to Maui Police Chief John Pelletier, who renewed an appeal for families with missing relatives to provide DNA samples.

Green warned that scores more bodies could be found. The wildfires, some of which have not yet been fully contained, are already the deadliest in the U.S. in more than a century. Their cause was under investigation.

Authorities paused a system that had allowed Lahaina residents and others to visit devastated areas with police permits. Kevin Eliason said when he was turned away, the line of cars with people waiting to get a placard had grown to at least 3 miles (5 kilometers) long.

“It’s a joke,” Eliason said. “It’s just crazy. They didn’t expect, probably, tens of thousands of people to show up there.”

The blaze that swept into centuries-old Lahaina last week destroyed nearly every building in the town of 13,000. That 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 many 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.

The Biden administration is seeking $12 billion more for the government’s disaster relief fund as part of its supplemental funding request to Congress.

Green said “leaders all across the board” have helped by donating over a million pounds (454,000 kilograms) of food as well as ice, water, diapers and baby formula.

“When people are hurting, the community steps up and takes care of each other,” Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke said at a news conference Monday.

A small number of active duty U.S. Marines have also joined the aid efforts.

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.

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 practice of diverting water from streams that started during Hawaii’s sugar plantation past.

Maui Strong fundraiser to help with victim relief of Hawaii wildfires

___

Kelleher reported from Honolulu and Weber from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalists Haven Daley in Kalapua, Hawaii; Beatrice Dupuy in New York; and Josh Boak in Washington contributed.

___

Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


KSL TV is joining fundraising efforts for the “Maui Strong: Fire Relief Fund” to help those devastated by wildfires in Hawaii, through the  Hawaii Community Foundation. DONATE HERE

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

The Supreme Court decided Friday to uphold a federal gun control law that is meant to protect victi...

Brian Carlson

Supreme Court upholds gun law intended to protect domestic violence victims

The Supreme Court decided Friday to uphold a federal gun control law that is meant to protect victims of domestic violence. The law prevents people with a domestic violence restraining order from having a gun.

1 minute ago

Recount observers watch ballots during a Milwaukee hand recount of Presidential votes at the Wiscon...

Ken Ritter, Associated Press

Fake elector case in Nevada dismissed over venue question, state attorney general vows appeal

A Nevada judge has dismissed a criminal indictment against six Republicans accused of submitting certificates to Congress falsely declaring Donald Trump the winner of the state’s 2020 presidential election.

12 minutes ago

The bodies of two men, including a U.S. Air Force colonel who served as director of operations for ...

Associated Press

Bodies of Air Force colonel and Utah man are recovered after their plane crashed in an Alaska lake

The bodies of two men, including a U.S. Air Force colonel who served as director of operations for the Alaskan Command, have been recovered after their small plane plunged into an Alaska lake.

2 hours ago

Four menthol vaping products were authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration on Friday, the ...

Jen Christensen, CNN

FDA sign-off on menthol e-cigarettes ‘flies in the face of public health,’ anti-tobacco groups say

Four menthol vaping products were authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration on Friday, the first non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products to get the agency’s sign-off. The decision drew harsh criticism from pediatricians and anti-tobacco groups.

2 hours ago

Ten people have been shot, 2 fatally, following an active shooter incident at Mad Butcher Grocery i...

Zoe Sottile and Justin Lear, CNN

Three dead, 10 wounded, in Arkansas grocery store shooting, authorities say

Three people were killed and 10 wounded in a shooting at a grocery store in Fordyce, Arkansas, the Arkansas State Police said in a news conference Friday.

4 hours ago

FILE - A line of unsold 2018 Cooper Clubmen sit in a long row at a Mini dealership, March 30, 2018,...

Wyatte Grantham-Philips, AP Business Writer

Car dealerships are being disrupted by a multi-day outage after cyberattacks on software supplier

Car dealerships across North America have faced a major disruption this week.

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Hawaii works to identify 99 confirmed dead after Maui wildfires as teams intensify search