Maui wildfires live updates: 3% of destroyed area searched, bodies identified by DNA

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Maui mayor gives update on wildfire rescue effortsUnmute

Dangerous wildfires are spreading rapidly on Maui due to very dry conditions stemming from a drought combined with powerful winds across Hawaii.

Maui wildfires live updates: 3% of destroyed area searched, bodies identified by DNA

At least 93 people have died from the wildfires on Maui, marking the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii since it became a state.

Much of the historic town of Lahaina has been “destroyed,” according to officials. A state of emergency has been declared for the whole island, while all nonessential travel to the popular vacation destination is being discouraged, officials said. The Big Island of Hawaii has also been affected by wildfires.

Death toll climbs to 93, officials say

The death toll from the fires in Maui has increased to at least 93 people, county officials said late Saturday.

2 bodies identified with 3% of the destroyed area searched

Two of the 89 bodies recovered from the burned-out area near Lahaina have been identified using DNA, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said.

Search crews were using dogs on Saturday to look for remains in the wreckage, he said at an evening press conference in Kahului.

A member of the search and rescue team walks with her cadaver dog near Front Street on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii, following heavy damage caused by wildfires.© Rick Bowmer/AP

Only 3% of the destroyed area had so far been covered, he said. Twelve additional dogs were on the way to aid in the search.

Maui wildfires live updates: 3% of destroyed area searched, bodies identified by DNA

He described the blaze as “a fire that melted metal,” saying it had been severe enough that each recovered body will have to be identified using DNA.

Maui Chief of Police John Pelletier speaks about the Maui fire during a media conference in Kahului on Maui island, Hawaii, August 12, 2023.© Mike Blake/Reuters

“Every one of these 89 are John and Jane Does,” he said.

He asked locals to get DNA tests at a nearby facility as a way to speed up the identification process.

“We need to identify your loved ones,” the chief said.

Death toll rises to 89, public told to ‘brace’ for more: Governor

At least 89 people have died in the Maui fires, Gov. Josh Green said on Saturday during a live press conference.

Hawaii’s Governor Josh Green listens to Deanne Criswell, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as she speaks about the Maui fire during a media conference in Kahului on Maui island, Hawaii, U.S., August 12, 2023.© Mike Blake/Reuters

“It’s going to continue to rise. We want to brace people for that,” Green continued.

With Maui’s wildfire death toll surpassing California’s 2018 Camp Fire, it’s now the deadliest U.S. wildfire in modern history.

2,207 structures damaged or destroyed in Lahaina fire, with 2,170 acres burned: Officials

According to the Pacific Disaster Center, an estimated total of 2,719 structures were exposed to the Lahaina fire; 2,207 structures were damaged or destroyed; and 2,170 acres were burned.

Of the buildings exposed to the fire, 86% were classified as residential.

Death toll climbs to 80 in Maui wildfires

At least 80 people have died in Maui as wildfires continue to flare up, officials said in an update.

Firefighters were working to contain three blazes in Lahaina, Upcountry Maui, and near Pulehu and Kihei, officials said at about 9 p.m. local time. A fire reported near Kaanapali was 100% contained.

Restrictions on vehicle traffic were in place throughout West Maui, but the road leading out of Lahaina was open, county officials said.

“The burned historic Lahaina town area remains barricaded, with people warned to stay out of the area due to hazards including toxic particles from smoldering areas,” the update said. “Wearing a mask and gloves is advised.”

Volunteers help with community donations of drinking water at King’s Cathedral church as residents come together to help people affected by the wildfires on Maui island, in Hawaii, U.S., August 11, 2023.© Mike Blake/Reuters

Fire near Kaanapali 80% controlled, evacuations stopped fire near Maui’s Kaanapali area is now 80% controlled and evacuations have been stopped, the Maui Police Department said in an update.

Evacuation underway in Kaanapali

Residents and tourists in Kaanapali were being evacuated Friday evening as fires continued in West Maui, law enforcement officials said.

“As of this posting, there is a fire in West Maui, residents in the Kaanapali are currently being evacuated,” the Maui Police Department said in a statement posted to social media.

Kaanapali, another area popular with tourists, is on the coast a few miles north of Lahaina.

Maui wildfires live updates: 3% of destroyed area searched, bodies identified by DNA

Many cultural landmarks cherished by the people of the island have been damaged

One region particularly ravaged by the wildfires is the historic town of Lahaina, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1962.

It was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1820 to 1845 before Honolulu became the capital and before the kingdom was overthrown and Hawaii was annexed by the United States, according to the Hawai’i Tourism Authority.

Maui wildfires live updates: 3% of destroyed area searched, bodies identified by DNA

This includes the historic Waiola Church, the first Christian church on Maui established in 1823, which can be seen in photos engulfed in the blaze.

Buried here are several Hawaiian monarchs, including “Queen Keopuolani, the highest royalty by bloodlines in all Hawaii,” the last king of Kauai King Kaumuali’i, High Chief Ulumaheihei Hoapili, and more.

A more than 60-foot-tall, 150-year-old Indian banyan tree that becomes a beloved landmark in the city of Lahaina was also damaged in the blaze, pictures show.

The historic tree covers one-quarter of a mile and shades nearly two-thirds of an acre of land.

Other historic homes, museums, and cultural centers were caught in the blaze. Learn more here.

Death toll now 67, marking deadliest natural disaster since Hawaii’s statehood

The death toll due to the Maui fires has increased to 67, officials said.

Twelve additional fatalities have been confirmed as of 1 p.m. local time Friday, officials said, bringing the death toll to 67.

That officially makes this the largest death toll from a natural disaster since Hawaii’s statehood.

Previously, the deadliest natural disaster in the state occurred in 1960, when a tsunami killed 61 people.

The Lahaina fire is not yet contained, officials said.

Maui fires declared a public health emergency

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency for Hawaii due to the wildfires.

The declaration “gives the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) health care providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries,” the agency said.

A man walks through wildfire destruction, Aug. 11, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii.© Rick Bowmer/AP

“We will do all we can to assist Hawaii officials with responding to the health impacts of the wildfires,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “We are working closely with state and local health authorities, as well as our partners across the federal government, and stand ready to provide additional public health and medical support.”

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