The official death toll in the Hawaiian fires that destroyed the town of Lahaina rose to over 90 yesterday, and officials say they’ve barely begun their efforts to find all of the victims. With the toll at 93 early yesterday, the fire is now the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history, topping the 85 who lost their lives in the 2018 Camp Fire in California. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green says the damage is estimated at around $6 billion, and the fire will most likely be the largest natural disaster in the state’s history.
Access to the most affected area is being restricted by officials, even to people whose homes were there. Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said at a press conference yesterday that 89 of the 93 victims found so far “are John and Jane Does,” and will require time to identify. “You want it fast, or you want it right?,” Chief Pelletier said before adding, “We’re going to do it right.”
With search and recovery efforts still in the very early stages, the wildfire that struck the Hawaiian island of Maui last week is now the fifth-deadliest wildfire in the history of America. As of last night, at least 99 people had been confirmed dead, and search teams and cadaver dogs had only covered 25% of the affected area. The fire is being called the worst natural disaster of any kind in Hawaii’s history, eclipsing the death toll of 61 from a 1960 tsunami.
The White House outlined steps it’s taking to aid Maui yesterday, with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell telling reporters that President Joe Biden has ordered a “whole of government” approach to providing relief to those affected. In an X (formerly Twitter) thread yesterday morning, Biden announced Critical Needs Assistance, which is described as “a one-time $700 payment per household offering relief during an unimaginably difficult time.