Maui wildfires: Death toll reaches 93, officials say effort to quantify losses just beginning

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Parishioners at Hawaii churches mourned the dead and prayed for the missing Sunday as communities began to look forward to a long recovery from last week. Wildfires raze historic Maui More than 90 people were killed.

Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina was spared the flames that destroyed most of the surrounding community, but as search and rescue efforts continued, its parishioners were about 10 miles down the road from Honolulu Bishop Rev. Attended by Clarence. Led by “Larry” Silva.

Taufa Samisani said her uncle, aunt, cousin and cousin’s 7-year-old son were found dead inside the burning car. Samisani’s wife Katalina said the family will find comfort in Silva’s reference to the biblical story of how Jesus’ disciple Peter walked on water and was saved from drowning.

“If Peter could walk on water, yes. We will come ashore,” she said, her voice trembling.

During the service, Silva read a message from Pope Francis, who said he was praying for those who had lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. He also offered prayers for first responders.

Silva later told The Associated Press that the community is worried about its children, who have witnessed tragedies and are worried.

“I think the more casual they can be with their peers, learning and having fun, the better off they’ll be,” Silva said.

Meanwhile, Hawaii officials urged tourists to avoid traveling to Maui, as several hotels were prepared to accommodate evacuees and first responders.

About 46,000 residents and visitors have evacuated West Maui’s Kahului Airport since the devastation in Lahaina became apparent Wednesday, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

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“In the coming weeks, the combined resources and attention of federal, state and county government, the West Maui community and the tourism industry must be focused on rescuing residents forced to evacuate their homes and businesses,” the agency said. said in a statement late Saturday. Tourists are encouraged to visit the other islands of Hawaii.

Governor Josh Green said 500 hotel rooms would be provided to displaced locals. An additional 500 rooms will be reserved for Federal Emergency Management Agency workers. Some hotels will continue normal business to protect jobs and sustain the local economy, Green said.

The government wants to work with Airbnb to ensure local residents have access to rental housing. Green hopes the company can provide three to nine months of rent to those who lost their homes.

As the death toll around Lahaina rises to 93, officials caution that efforts to locate and identify the dead are still in their early stages. The wildfires are already the worst wildfires in the United States in more than a century.

Teams with cadaver dogs covered just 3% of the search area, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said Saturday.

A group of volunteers from Malea Bay, Maui, forms an assembly line to unload donations from a boat on Kaanapali Beach, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023. Maui residents rallied to donate water, food and other essentials to people on the island’s west side after a deadly fire destroyed hundreds of homes and left scores of people homeless. (AP Photo/Rick Bomer)

Members of a search and rescue team walk down a street, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii, following extensive damage caused by wildfires.  (AP Photo/Rick Bomer)

Members of a search and rescue team walk down a street, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii, following extensive damage caused by wildfires. (AP Photo/Rick Bomer)

Lailas Kanemoto is awaiting word on the fate of her cousin, Glenn Yoshino.

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“I’m afraid he’s gone because we haven’t heard from him and he must have found a way to contact the family. We’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst,” Kanemoto said Sunday. Family members will submit DNA.

The family was devastated by the death of four relatives. The remains of Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone, their daughter, Salote Takafua and her son, Tony Takafua, were found inside the burnt car.

“At least we’re giving them closure, but the loss and heartbreak is unbearable for many,” Kanemoto said.

County officials said on Facebook that 4,500 people needed shelter, citing figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pacific Disaster Center.

At the Westin Maui in Kaanapali, chef JP Maioka serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. But instead of serving hotel guests, he’s been feeding the roughly 200 hotel employees and their family members who have been living there since Tuesday’s fire destroyed the Lahaina community south of the resort.

His house and that of his father were spared. But his girlfriend, two young daughters, father and another local are all staying together in a hotel room because it’s safer than Lahaina, which is covered in toxic waste.

Maui water officials warned Lahaina and Kula residents not to drink running water, which can be contaminated even when it boils, and to take only short, dull showers in well-ventilated rooms to avoid exposure to chemical vapors.

“Everyone has their own story, everyone has lost something. So everyone can be there for each other, and they understand what’s going on in each other’s lives,” he said of his colleagues at the hotel.

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Hawaii Island Mayor Mitch Roth warned that the recovery effort is “a marathon not a sprint.” To keep the effort “coordinated and thoughtful,” Roth urged Hawaii residents to donate money to established nonprofits and stop donating physical items because a reliable distribution system is not yet in place.

The latest death toll is higher 2018 Camp Fire In Northern California, it killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise.

The cause of the forest fire is under investigation. The fires are Hawaii’s worst natural disaster in decades, surpassing the 1960 tsunami that killed 61 people. An even worse tsunami in 1946 killed more than 150 people on the Big Island.

A as fuel Dry summer and strong winds from a A passing stormOn Maui the flames raced through the dry brush covering the island.

The most intense fire tore through Lahaina on Tuesday and destroyed every building in the town of 13,000, leaving a grid of gray rubble between the blue ocean and lush green slopes.

Elsewhere on Maui, at least two fires are burning: in South Maui’s Kihei region and inland communities known as the Highlands. There was no casualty in the fire.

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Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press reporters Jennifer Kelleher in Honolulu; Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho; Andrew Selsky in Bend, Oregon; Bobby Kaina Galvan and Beatrice Dupuy in New York; Ty O’Neill in Lahaina, Hawaii; Pat Eden-Robb in Hartford, Connecticut; and Lisa J. Adams Wagner, Evans, Georgia, contributed to this report.

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