The governor of Hawaii issued a cautionary statement, expressing concern that the casualty count resulting from the destructive wildfires in Maui might significantly increase. This comes as emergency responders meticulously search through the debris for human remains.
“We are prepared for many tragic stories,” Governor Josh Green told “CBS Mornings” in a recorded interview that was aired Monday.
Twenty cadaver dogs and dozens of searchers are making their way through devastated blocks of the historic town of Lahaina. “They will find 10 to 20 people per day, probably, until they finish. And it’s probably going to take 10 days. It’s impossible to guess, really,” he said.
This means the death toll, currently estimated at at least 96 people, could double or even triple. As cellphone service has slowly been restored, residents have been able to reconnect with family and friends.
Hawaii governor warns of much higher fire death toll
More than 2,700 buildings were damaged or destroyed as the fire tore through the town, according to official estimates, causing $5.5 billion (€5.04 billion) in damage.
Lahaina, which served as the Hawaiian kingdom’s capital in the early 19th century, was home to around 12,000 residents. It had a bustling tourist street packed with shops and restaurants.
Now, “there’s nothing to see except full devastation,” said Green, who has visited the town multiple times.
Meanwhile, police are asking people with missing relatives to provide DNA samples to speed up the process of identifying the human remains.
The intensity of the fire and the extent of the destruction is making identification process difficult.
“The remains we’re finding are from a fire that melted metal,” said Maui Police Chief John Pelletier. “When we pick up the remains… they fall apart.”
The wildfire in Maui is the deadliest in the United States since 1918, when 453 people died in Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to nonprofit research group the National Fire Protection Association.