99 confirmed dead in Maui wildfires but governor warns there could be more

The blazes that consumed most of the town of Lahaina are already the deadliest in the US in more than a century.

99 confirmed dead in Maui wildfires but governor warns there could be many more Getty Images

The number of deaths caused by the Maui wildfires now stands at 99, a figure that is likely to increase as search crews comb neighbourhoods where flames moved as fast as a mile a minute.

The blazes that consumed most of the historic town of Lahaina are already the deadliest in the US in more than a century with the cause under investigation.

Governor Josh Green said the search will take time and and asked for space to do it properly.

“For those people who have walked into Lahaina because they really wanted to see, know that they’re very likely walking on iwi,” he said at a news conference on Maui, using the Hawaiian word for bones.

“They will find 10 to 20 people per day, probably, until they finish,” Mr Green told CBS Mornings in a recorded interview that aired on Monday.

“And it’s probably going to take 10 days. It’s impossible to guess, really.”

As the mobile phone service has slowly been restored, the number of people missing dropped to about 1,300 from more than 2,000, Mr Green said.

Twenty cadaver dogs and dozens of searchers are making their way through blocks reduced to ash.

As of Monday, they had searched about 25% of the area, up from just 3% during the weekend, said Maui Police chief John Pelletier.

Meanwhile, some state officials say there is a shortage of water available for firefighters, and they blame a recent ruling by an environmental court judge.

It is part of a long-running battle between environmentalists and private companies over the decades long practice of diverting water from East Maui streams that started during Hawaii’s sugar plantation past.

Mr Green said there are people fighting over access to water to fight fires.

“We have a difficult time on Maui and other rural areas getting enough water for houses, for our people, for any response,” he said.

As work continues to fully restore power, evacuees were expected to begin moving into hotels.

Mr Green said that 500 hotel rooms were being made available for displaced locals and an additional 500 rooms will be set aside for workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) who are aiding in the recovery.

In addition, FEMA has started to provide 700 dollars to displaced residents to cover the cost of food, water, first aid and medical supplies, agency administrator Deanne Criswell said.

The money is in addition to whatever amount residents qualify for to cover the loss of homes and personal property.

More than 3,000 people have registered for federal assistance, according to FEMA, and that number was expected to grow.

On the water-supply issue, the deputy head of the US Fire Administration, Tonya Hoover, said she did not have details on the island’s current water supply. She said the head of her agency has been meeting with firefighters, including one who was badly hurt and taken to hospital.

The Biden administration is seeking 12 billion dollars more for the government’s disaster relief fund as part of its supplemental funding request to Congress.

The blaze that swept into centuries-old Lahaina last week destroyed nearly every building in the town of 13,000.

Even where the fire has retreated, authorities have warned that toxic byproducts may remain, including in drinking water, after the flames spewed poisonous fumes. And many people have no home to return to.

The Red Cross said 575 evacuees were spread across five shelters, including the War Memorial Gymnasium in Wailuku. Among the visitors was Oprah Winfrey, who told Hawaii News Now that she delivered personal hygiene products, towels and water in recent days.

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