Officials vowed to examine the state’s emergency notification systems after some residents questioned whether more could have been done to warn them before the fire overtook their homes. Some were forced to wade into the Pacific Ocean to escape.
Sirens stationed around the island – intended to warn of impending natural disasters – never sounded, and widespread power and cellular outages hampered other forms of alerts.
The state’s attorney general, Anne Lopez, said she was launching a review of the decision-making before and during the fire, while Green told CNN he had authorized a review of the emergency response.
Officials have described a nightmarish confluence of factors – including communications network failures, wind gusts of up to 80 miles per hour (130 kph) from an offshore hurricane and a separate wildfire dozens of miles away – that made it nearly impossible to coordinate in real time with the emergency management agency that would typically issue warnings and evacuation orders.
“Over time, we’ll be able to figure out if we could have better protected people,” said Green. He said the multiple fires and dangerous winds created extraordinarily difficult conditions.
The death toll made the inferno, which erupted on Tuesday, Hawaii’s worst natural disaster, surpassing a tsunami that killed 61 people in 1960, a year after Hawaii became a U.S. state.
The latest figure exceeded the 85 people who perished in a 2018 fire in the town of Paradise, California, and was the highest toll from a wildfire since 1918, when the Cloquet fire in Minnesota and Wisconsin claimed 453 lives.
Officials have secured 1,000 hotel rooms for people who lost their homes and are arranging for rental properties to serve as housing at no cost to families, Green said. More than 1,400 people had been taken in at emergency shelters.
Deanne Criswell, the FEMA director, said the agency had 150 people on the ground and that additional search teams and dogs would be arriving within a day or two.