The death toll from the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century in Hawaii was projected to surpass 100 on Sunday, fuelling claims that the severe loss of life was caused in part by a weak official response.
Late Saturday, officials increased the death toll to 93, but they also issued a warning that the number was expected to increase as rescue teams using cadaver dogs resumed the grueling process of combing burned-out homes and vehicles at the Lahaina epicenter.
Early on Wednesday morning, a swiftly spreading fire nearly completely destroyed the ancient coastal village on the Hawaiian island of Maui. According to survivors, no warnings were given.
When asked Sunday why none of the island’s sirens had been activated, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono said she would wait for the results of an investigation announced by the state’s attorney general.
“I’m not going to make any excuses for this tragedy,” Hirono, a Democrat, told CNN’s “State of the Union”.
“We’re really focused, as far as I’m concerned, on the need for rescue, and, sadly, the location of more bodies.”
More than 2,200 structures were damaged or destroyed as the fire tore through Lahaina, according to official estimates. It wreaked $5.5 billion in damage and left thousands homeless.
“The remains we’re finding are from a fire that melted metal,” said Maui Police Chief John Pelletier. “When we pick up the remains… they fall apart.”
A famous, 150-year-old banyan tree was still standing among the wreckage in Lahaina; a town of more than 12,000 people and the former residence of the Hawaiian royal family.
Joe Biden, the president, stated on Sunday that he was “looking at” visiting the island.
The National Fire Protection Association, a non-profit research organization, claims that the wildfire is the worst to occur in the United States since 1918, when 453 people perished in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The number of fatalities topped that of the Camp Fire in California in 2018, which killed 86 people. The same fire almost completely destroyed the little town of Paradise.