Hawaii Wildfires Kill at Least 96, Rescue Operations Continue
On Sunday night, Hawaii officials announced that the death toll from the catastrophic Maui wildfires had risen to 96 — the deadliest US wildfire in over 100 years. Search and rescue operations continue with teams using cadaver dogs to comb the burned areas for additional victims.
On Sunday night, Hawaii officials announced that the death toll from the catastrophic Maui wildfires had risen to 96 — the deadliest US wildfire in over 100 years. Search and rescue operations continue with teams using cadaver dogs to comb the burned areas for additional victims.1
While the most devastating fire, the Lahaina fire, swept through the town of Lahaina on Maui, two other fires, the Pulehu/Kihei fire, and the Upcountry fire ravaged other areas of the island. As of Monday morning, the Lahaina fire was 85% contained, and the Pulehu/Kihei and Upcountry fires were 80% and 50%, respectively.2
According to Hawaii's Governor Josh Green, approximately 30% of the firefighters battling the blazes have lost their homes and contact with family members but they continue their public safety efforts.2
While emergency operations continue and the recovery efforts begin, Hawaiian officials are urging vacationers to travel to other Hawaiian locations to preserve hotel availability for residents who have lost their homes and for local, state, and federal emergency response personnel. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, since Wednesday, nearly 46K residents and vacationers have evacuated Maui.3
Maui County officials are facing public backlash over the environmental conditions that led to the devastating wildfire and the lack of warning for residents during the fire. Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez is launching an investigation into the decision-making made by officials in the years leading up to the fire.4
While the official cause of the wildfires remains under investigation, a Hawaiian couple has initiated a lawsuit against four of Hawaii's power companies alleging that their reckless behavior in ignoring the weather conditions was the direct cause of the fires resulting in the losses of life and property.5
Narrative A, as provided by The Guardian. Several factors contributed to the fast-moving wildfires occurring in Hawaii, but make no mistake; they're all linked to climate change. A prolonged period of drought and increased temperature dried out the grass, creating fuel for the wildfires. Increased sea temperatures then drove stronger hurricanes that fanned the fires, extending their deadly reach. Without any action to address climate change, this will just be one of many catastrophic events.
Narrative B, as provided by Honolulu Civil Beat. "Unprepared" is a common theme being echoed by Hawaiian officials and residents. Despite knowing the risks of a prolonged period of drought followed by a passing hurricane, the state failed to adequately prepare for the collision of the two forces. This unprecedented deadly event may have been born from several factors, but they were all known and documented. Now the island's residents must pay the price in lost lives, homes, and businesses.