Death toll from Hawaii wildfires reach 114 as search for victims continues

Death toll from Hawaii wildfires reach 114 as search for victims continues

IANS Photo

Honolulu, August 19 (IANS) The death toll from the wildfires in Hawaii's Maui island, deemed to be the the deadliest in modern US history, has spiked to 114 while more than 60 per cent of the disaster area has been searched with rescue efforts continuing, authorities said.

 The Maui Police Department confirmed in an update that the total number of fatalities in the deadly wildfires has increased to 114, up from Thursday's 111, reports Xinhua news agency.

In a televised speech, Hawaii Governor Josh Green said that the number of lives lost in the disaster is "expected to increase each day" as the search for victims continues.

"The scope of devastation on Maui is difficult to express in words," said the Governor, noting that more than 2,200 buildings have been destroyed and another 500 have been damaged at an estimated cost of nearly $6 billion.

"Now, we are engaged in the difficult work of searching for survivors, reuniting separated families and identifying the remains of those we've lost," Green said.

There are now approximately 470 search and rescue workers and 40 search dogs combing through the hundreds of burnt buildings, according to the governor.

"We will rebuild Lahaina. It will take years of work and billions of dollars, but we are committed to this effort, and together we will meet this challenge," the governor said.

Deadly wildfires have scorched much of the historic town of Lahaina, a popular tourist spot on Maui and once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

It's home to around 13,000 residents.

Green said he has ordered a comprehensive assessment of every detail of the emergency response to the fires on Maui.

With at least 1,000 people still unaccounted for, recovery teams in Lahaina are racing against time to cover as much ground as possible before heavy rains are slated to move in next week, reported local news outlet Hawaii News Now.

The White House said in a statement earlier this week that President Joe Biden will travel to Maui on August 21 to meet with first responders, survivors, as well as federal, state and local officials.