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hawaii wildfires

Hawaii wildfires: Maui mayor confirms 850 people still missing and 114 dead

Richard Bissen said he will be providing daily updates on Instagram as search operations continue.

SOME 850 PEOPLE are still missing following devastating wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui, according to its mayor.

Richard Bissen, the mayor of Maui, said in a video on Instagram today that the death toll now stands at 114.

He said he will be providing daily updates on Instagram as search and recovery operations continue.

“It is my sad duty to report that 114 individuals have been confirmed deceased,” he said. “27 individuals have been identified and 11 families have been notified.”

The FBI and Maui County Coroner are working to identify all the recovered remains.

Maui residents have criticised the process of recovering lost loved ones – and identifying bodies – as being agonisingly slow.

missing-people-flyers-for-lahaina-hawaii-residents-are-posted-on-a-bulletin-board-at-kings-cathedral-maui-in-kahului-hawaii-saturday-aug-19-2023-as-days-turn-into-weeks-the-odds-are-growing Alamy Alamy

Bissen continued: “There are currently 850 names on the list of missing persons. There is positive news in this number, because when this process began, the missing person list contained over 2000 names.”

“Over 1,285 individuals have been located safe.”

Ferocious, wind-whipped blazes ripped through the historic town of Lahaina nearly two weeks ago.

Many of those who were killed are believed to have been trapped in their homes or caught in their cars as they made a desperate last-minute bid to escape.

Bissen said: “The number [of fatalities] identified will rise and the number of missing may decrease. But there will be daily fluctuations in the numbers as family members are added and removed from the list.”

a-woman-embraces-with-her-friend-just-after-confirming-their-safeties-on-the-island-of-maui-in-state-of-hawaii-united-states-on-august-19-2023-the-yomiuri-shimbun-via-ap-images Two Maui locals comfort each other after confirming their safeties Alamy Alamy

He appealed to locals with a missing loved on to aid the identification process by giving a DNA sample to authorities.

He said he would hold a press conference tomorrow where the public would be invited to ask questions via email.

“Our lives have changed forever and things will not be the same. What will be the same is the way we care for each other as we grieve and go through this together.”
a-photo-shows-the-wildfire-ravaged-town-of-lahaina-on-the-island-of-maui-in-state-of-hawaii-united-states-on-august-19-2023-a-man-walks-in-dumb-surprise-the-yomiuri-shimbun-via-ap-images Destroyed homes in Lahaina Alamy Alamy

Biden to visit

President Joe Biden will visit Hawaii today to view the widespread damage and meet with survivors.

Both the federal and state governments have been sharply criticised for being too slow to respond to the disaster.

After an aerial tour of the damage and a briefing by local officials, Biden plans to announce the appointment of a chief federal response coordinator to oversee the recovery effort, according to a White House official.

Biden will also announce a $3 million “quick release” emergency fund requested by Hawaii’s Department of Transportation “to offset costs associated with traffic management services and repairs to infrastructure.”

Biden issued a major-disaster declaration on August 10, two days after the devastating fires, to expedite federal funding and assistance to the area.

But some critics, including survivors in Hawaii and some Republicans hoping to face Biden in next year’s presidential election, say federal aid has been inadequate and poorly organised.

Former president Donald Trump said it was “disgraceful” that his successor had not responded more quickly, though White House spokesmen have said Biden delayed his trip so as not to distract officials and rescuers on the ground from recovery efforts.

In a statement Sunday, Biden said, “I know how profoundly loss can impact a family and a community and I know nothing can replace the loss of life. I will do everything in my power to help Maui recover and rebuild from this tragedy.”

While search teams have covered 85 percent of the search zone, the remaining 15 percent could take weeks, Hawaii Governor Josh Green has said.

He told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the fire’s extreme heat meant it might be impossible to recover some remains “meaningfully.”

Presidential visits to major disaster zones, while viewed as almost politically mandatory, can carry risks.

When President George W. Bush traveled to Louisiana in 2005 to witness the historic devastation of Hurricane Katrina, critics seized on pictures of him looking out the window of Air Force One while flying over New Orleans to say his arms-length visit lacked empathy.

And when then-president Donald Trump casually tossed rolls of paper towels into a crowd in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico in 2017, critics called his gesture cavalier and insensitive.

Additional reporting by AFP

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