Maui’s wildfires claimed at least 99 lives, and officials fear the toll could rise with only 25% of the burn area searched.

With only a quarter of the Maui wildfire burn area explored, the potential for a significant increase in the death toll of what has become the deadliest wildfire in the US in over a century is a concern, as stated by Hawaii authorities on Monday. At least 99 confirmed deaths have resulted from the wildfires, and Governor Josh Green of Hawaii informed CNN on Monday that this number could double within the next 10 days. Describing the situation as “a tragedy beyond tragedies,” the governor expressed the devastation caused by the fires that began engulfing parts of the island last week.In a press conference on Monday, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier announced that authorities are anticipated to commence the release of names of the deceased whose families have been notified on Tuesday. Many of the fatalities were discovered in open areas, vehicles, or water in the severely affected Lahaina region of western Maui. As the search effort expands with additional teams and cadaver dogs, the search encompasses devastated neighborhoods.Communication gaps make it unclear how many people remain unaccounted for, as many individuals were forced to flee without their belongings, including phones that were incinerated in the fires. As of Monday, only approximately 25% of the fire zone has been searched, though Pelletier hopes that coverage will reach 85% to 90% by the upcoming weekend. The search and recovery operation, which started with one dog, has now grown to include 20 teams.Teams are methodically going through areas that were once homes, businesses, and historic landmarks, but were reduced to ruins by the fast-spreading wildfires ignited by strong winds on August 8. Thousands of residents faced harrowing escapes, with homes engulfed and neighborhoods destroyed.FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell described the profound impact of the disaster, stating that nothing can prepare individuals for the emotional toll caused by such a severe event.Nine individuals injured in the wildfires have been treated at a specialized burn unit in Honolulu, which is the sole burn unit in the state and the Pacific Region, according to the Straub Medical Center.Authorities have urged those with missing family members to provide DNA samples to aid in the identification process, as only a few victims have been identified through fingerprints. The destruction caused by the fires includes over 2,200 structures, primarily residential.Efforts are being made to provide housing to displaced individuals, with over 400 hotel rooms and 1,400 Airbnb units available. Many residents are also offering their homes to help those in need.Hawaiian Electric is working to restore power to the majority of its customers, who were left without power and communications due to the fires. The utility company faces a lawsuit alleging that power lines knocked over by high winds contributed to the destructive wildfire.The US Coast Guard is shifting its focus from search and rescue to managing potentially hazardous materials left in the ocean by the fires. Families of victims shared stories of their loved ones who tragically lost their lives while trying to escape the fire’s path.The alarm system intended to warn residents of natural disasters, including tsunamis, failed to activate as the fire spread on August 8, with extreme heat possibly affecting its functionality. An ongoing review of the emergency response is being led by Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez to assess critical decisions and policies leading up to, during, and after the wildfires.

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