The death toll from the devastating wildfires on the island of Maui, Hawaii, has now climbed to 55 – as officials warned that the loss of life is expected to rise further. More fatalities were confirmed on Thursday, taking the total to 53 victims.
Hawaii Governor Josh Green said that around 1,000 people are still unaccounted for, as he said that the Aloha State is headed for its deadliest disaster in state history. Mr Green said that those unaccounted for are not presumed dead but that hundreds have been left without communications and so their safety is unclear.
Unaccounted for and Desperate for Communication
“Here’s the challenge: there’s no power, no internet, no phone, no radio. You compound some of that. So when we’re speaking to our officers, we need them to get a sat phone,” he said.
The wildfires continue to devastate Lahaina, with more than 1,700 buildings and billions of dollars in property destroyed. Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said that the historic town has been totally wiped out. “It’s all gone. None of it’s there. It’s all burnt to the ground,” Mr Bissen said.
In an update from the County of Maui, officials said more cellphone service was available in West Maui on Friday. “If you have a cell signal and cannot make a call, try texting instead,” the County of Maui wrote on Facebook. Power and water are slowly being restored as well in parts of Hawaii where the wildfires hit.
Efforts to Find Missing Persons
As of Friday morning, a total of 55 people have died as a result of the devastating wildfires in Maui, Hawaii – but that number could increase. Richard Bissen, the mayor of Maui County said the death toll is only based on people who were found outside as the inside of buildings have yet to be searched, he told TODAY. “Right now our focus is finding any missing persons,” Mr Bissen said. “We want to reunite families. Authorities are waiting for FEMA officials to help in the interior search for people.
For those looking to travel to Hawaii or currently travelling to Hawaii, authorities are asking to cancel or return home so hotels can be used to provide shelter for those who have lot their homes. At a news conference on Wednesday, Hawaii’s State Department of Transportation director said non-essential travel to Maui was strongly discouraged. The Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) echoed the statement saying: “Non-essential travel to Maui is strongly discouraged at this time. Visitors currently on Maui for non-essential travel reasons are being asked to leave the island as rescue and recovery efforts continue.
Assistance and Support from Celebrities
Jason Momoa, the American actor from Hawaii, has posted several resources on Instagram for those looking to assist in the search, recovery, and rebuilding efforts in Maui after the wildfires. “We are devastated and heartbroken for our friends and ‘ohana on Maui who have been impacted by the recent wildfires,” Mr Momoa wrote.
The actor provided several links to nonprofit organizations accepting donations to assist in relief. Search and recovery efforts are underway in Maui where wildfires devastated towns and neighborhoods, and assisting in the recovery are cadaver dogs.
One of Hawaii’s Oldest Hotels Destroyed
The Pioneer Inn, the oldest hotel in Hawaii, was one of the thousands of buildings destroyed by the wildfires that ravaged the historic town of Lahaina in Maui. The Pioneer Inn began operating as a hotel back in 1901, making it 122 years old today. On Wednesday, Best Western Hotels – which now runs the storied hotel – confirmed that it had been lost to the wildfires on 9 August. All guests were safely evacuated from the hotel and its restaurant Papa’aina, famed for its brunches.
The tragedy in Maui represents America’s second-deadliest wildfire outbreak of the last 100 years, with only the Camp Fire that struck California in 2018 surpassing the current Hawaiian death toll, which is still rising and could yet surpass it. Governor Josh Green appealed to Hawaii residents with unharmed homes to take others in as they continue search and recovery efforts.
Daily Updates on Recovery Efforts
As Maui works to recover those who have died in the massive wildfires and rebuild the neighborhoods that have been burned down, the County of Maui will provide daily updates via radio. Beginning on Friday at 9 am HST, the County of Maui will provide updates twice a day – once at 9 am and another at 3 pm. The updates will allow those without internet service or electricity to hear the latest in the recovery efforts. Other information will be available on the County of Maui’s social media pages and website.
- The death toll from the wildfires in Maui, Hawaii has reached 55, and it is expected to rise further.
- Around 1,000 people are still unaccounted for, with no power, internet, phone, or radio communication.
- More than 1,700 buildings have been destroyed, and billions of dollars in property have been lost.
- Efforts are ongoing to find missing persons and reunite families.
- Non-essential travel to Maui is strongly discouraged, and visitors are being asked to leave the island.
- Celebrities, including Jason Momoa, are providing resources for relief efforts.
- The Pioneer Inn, one of Hawaii’s oldest hotels, has been lost to the wildfires.
- The tragedy in Maui is one of America’s deadliest wildfire outbreaks in the past century.
- The County of Maui will provide daily updates on recovery efforts via radio.