Death toll in Lahaina rises to 93 as families with missing loved ones are asked for DNA samples
LAHAINA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui confirmed four additional fatalities in the Lahaina wildfire on Saturday, bringing the death toll to 93, and Gov. Josh Green warned the number of deaths will “continue to rise” as crews with cadaver dogs make their way into burned-out structures.
The disaster is now the deadliest wildfire in the US in more than a century.
At a news conference Saturday, Green acknowledged the unimaginable scope of the tragedy, saying people are understandably “stunned” and added the days and weeks ahead will be hard.
Earlier in the day, he told HNN it’s “hard to know” how many more fatalities there are.
“It will certainly be the worst natural disaster Hawaii has ever faced,” he said.
“I hurt to imagine the fear that went through people when a fire, which was really a hurricane and fire, came through all at once.”
Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said cadaver dogs have searched just 3% of the hardest-hit areas, and asked those with missing loved ones to provide DNA samples at a county resource center.
For information on the hubs and other ways to report loved ones missing, click here.
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Pelletier also asked for patience from those seeking to get into downtown Lahaina, reminding people that there are still remains that need to be properly recovered and identified.
“We know we have to go quick, but we’ve got to do it right,” he said.
“When we find our family and friends, the remains we’re finding is through a fire that melted metal. We have to do rapid DNA to identify them. Every one of these ... are John and Jane Does.”
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After a tour of Lahaina on Saturday morning with other local and federal leaders, including the head of FEMA, U.S. Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell said the wildfire that tore through the town clearly moved “incredibly fast and outpaced anything that firefighters could have done.”
The statement comes amid questions about whether more could have done to evacuate people — and save lives. Authorities have confirmed sirens were not sounded in Lahaina, and acknowledged evacuation alerts didn’t reach many because cell phone towers and power had already been lost.
Also on Saturday, Green announced 1,000 hotel rooms had been secured for evacuees and first responders. Long-term housing options are also being sought — all at government expense.
The county has put the total number of residents at evacuation shelters at 1,418. That’s in addition to hundreds more staying with friends, in hotels or in their cars.
Federal officials estimate about 4,500 people have been displaced.
Access to historic Lahaina town remains blocked off, though Maui County did reopen entry to nearby areas on Saturday after closing it after several hours Friday over safety concerns.
Only residents and visitors with hotel reservations will be allowed in.
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