Maui Police Department Chief John Pelletier said at a news conference Saturday that the search, recovery and identification process is still in its early stages so the death toll will rise.
The fires that have ravaged the island of Maui (Hawaii, USA) over the past week have already left 93 dead, according to the latest figures published this Sunday by the authorities, who have warned that the search process for the deceased is in its initial stage and that the worst is yet to come.
Maui Police Department Chief John Pelletier said at a news conference Saturday that the search, recovery and identification process is still in its early stages so the death toll will rise and it is unclear where it will end. .
“None of us really know its size yet,” said Pelletier, who recalled that the greatest devastation is in the west of the Hawaiian island, where cities like Lahaina have been almost completely destroyed.
Although the authorities are being cautious when it comes to giving a figure, Pelletier himself estimated last Thursday at around 1,000 people the number of disappeared, people who until now had not been located by their relatives, a figure that has not been confirmed again. update.
Pelletier estimated that until this Saturday only 3% of the affected area had been inspected: “We are going as fast as we can, but we have only been able to reach 3%, that is what the dogs have been looking for.”
On the Hawaiian island, search parties equipped with dogs are trying to find bodies in the ashes. Pelletier noted that Maui’s heat and humidity are likely slowing the canines’ work. “We can only go as fast as the animal can go,” he said.
The identification of the bodies found is also slow and so far only two have been able to be identified, although their identity has not yet been made public.
According to the latest report released this Sunday by the County of Maui, firefighting crews continue to try to put out outbreaks in the Lahaina and Upcountry Maui fires, while the Pulehu/Kīhei fire was completely extinguished on Saturday.
The fires, which began last Tuesday, have displaced thousands of people and a total of 1,418 are in one of the six temporary shelters that have been set up.
On Saturday, the governor of Hawaii, Josh Green, toured some of the affected areas and later warned that the death toll “is going to continue to rise.” “We want to prepare people for that,” said the Democratic politician, who recalled that these fires have become the deadliest in the last century in the United States.
Thus, the death toll from the Maui fires has surpassed the 85 people who died in the 2018 Camp Fires in California.
“This is the largest natural disaster we have ever experienced” and “it will be a natural disaster that will take an incredible amount of time to recover from,” he said.
While taking stock of the damages, which could exceed 6,000 million dollars, possible failures are also beginning to be analyzed. When the fires broke out and Maui lost power and communications, Hawaii’s alarm system, the world‘s largest, did not go off, according to authorities.
For this reason, Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez announced Saturday that she will conduct a “thorough investigation” into the authorities’ response to the catastrophe.
“My department is committed to understanding the decisions that were made before and during the wildfires and to sharing the results of this review with the public,” he said.