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Damage caused by Hawaiian wildfires worth billions

Monday 14 August 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional


Damage caused by Hawaiian wildfires worth billions
Volunteers load water onto a boat to be transported to West Maui from the Kihei boat landing. Photo: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/AFP

Over $US5.6 billion worth of infrastructure was destroyed in the wildfires that devastated the town of Lahaina last week, RNZ reports.

Hawaii's Governor

Josh Green told a media conference in Honolulu search and rescue teams are combing through hundreds of buildings in Lahaina to recover bodies.

The death toll is officially 96, making this the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century.

But Green told media it could take up to 10 days to learn the full death toll.

He said the number of missing stands at about 1300, as people have been able to reconnect with one another after access to cellphone service improved.

The Governor, who has visited the town to observe recovery efforts, said it was a grim task.

"It is a harrowing sight in Maui. When those providers - the police and this division - do come across scenes in houses and businesses, it's very difficult for them because they know they will be sharing with our people that there will be more fatalities. I do expect the numbers to rise."

Maui police chief John Pelletier told reporters only a fraction of the town had been searched and that many of the bodies are yet to be identified.

"We're going as fast as we can. But just so you know, three percent - that's what's been searched with the dogs, three percent.

"We've got 12 more dogs on the way today, we just made that request and FEMA made that happen. They're on their way," he said.

Hawaiian journalist Bill Dorman from Hawai'i Public Radio told RNZ on Monday only a handful of the deceased have been identified due to the lack of capacity for forensic work.

He said more than 2200 structures have been destroyed in West Maui and another 500 have been damaged inland from another fire on the island.

"Help is needed, has been needed. Federal help has started to arrive more is coming, everything from cadaver dogs to emergency workers to help with the rescue operations," he said.

Finau Fonua, RNZ Pacific Journalist