Live updates: Maui wildfires death toll rises, Lahaina recovery begins

Maui wildfires leave trail of death and destruction

1 hr 42 min ago

Nearly 2,000 housing units will be available for families displaced by fires

From CNN’s Raja Razek

A view of a War Memorial Gym turned into donation and medical shelter to aid victims of the Maui wildfires in Kahului, Hawaii, on August 11.
A view of a War Memorial Gym turned into donation and medical shelter to aid victims of the Maui wildfires in Kahului, Hawaii, on August 11. Jorge Garcia/Reuters

Nearly 2,000 housing units have been secured as Maui officials scramble to house thousands of residents whose homes were decimated by wildfires, officials announced Monday.

Officials have secured 402 hotel rooms and an additional 1,400 Airbnb units will be available on Tuesday, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said in a news conference on Monday. Another 160 residents have also stepped up to volunteer to shelter displaced people in their homes.

About 222 displaced families have already been placed in housing, Green said.

“We anticipate at least 36 weeks of direct housing for individuals,” Green said. “You will probably go on much longer than that, just so people know. But we don’t want people to think that they are going to get housed and suddenly be asked to leave. They will be in 30-day increments which will be constantly reupped so people will get housed.”

A total of 1,418 people were staying at emergency evacuation shelters as of Friday night, officials said previously.

More than 2,200 structures have been destroyed on the fires, 86% of them residential, Green said.

About 222 displaced families have already been placed in housing, Green said. People will likely require at least 36 weeks of housing assistance.

“The scale of the destruction is incredible,” Green said. “Our hearts are broken even a little bit more than when we were together 48 hours ago with the extra fatalities.”

County authorities signed a contract with the Red Cross on Monday and will be partnering with Federal Emergency Management Agency to make sure “everyone gets housed,” Green said.

An emergency proclamation that will assist residents with getting medications and medical care has also been signed, the governor said.

“We will be bringing hundreds and hundreds of mental health care workers into the state,” he added. 

2 hr 5 min ago

Maui authorities will begin releasing identities of wildfire victims on Tuesday

From CNN’s Elizabeth Wolfe

Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier speaks during a news conference on August 14, 2023.
Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier speaks during a news conference on August 14, 2023. Governor Josh Green/Facebook

Maui County authorities will begin releasing the identities of those killed in the wildfires that swept across the island, police announced during a news conference Monday.

At least 99 people have been confirmed dead so far.

Police and county officials will release the names of people whose families have been notified, Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier said during a Monday news conference.

State law requires authorities to notify a victim’s family before releasing their name, he explained.

Meantime, crews continue to search areas impacted by the fires, he said.

“To date, 25% of the area has been searched,” Pelletier said. “We can only move as fast as we can, but we’ve got the right amount of workers, the right amount of teams doing it.”

3 hr 41 min ago

Actor Jason Momoa releases statement on Maui wildfires

From CNN’s Steve Forrest

Jason Momoa seen on May 13.
Jason Momoa seen on May 13. Fiona Goodall/Getty Images/FILE

Actor Jason Momoa issued a statement Monday about the wildfires that ravaged Maui, saying “the destruction caused by these fires is heartbreaking, but our community’s resilience and strength will shine through.”

Momoa, who was born in in Honolulu, had been actively posting on his social media in the aftermath of the fire that has left at least 99 people dead.

Read Momoa’s latest statement below:

My heart goes out to all those affected by the devastating fires across the Island of Maui. In times like these, we come together as an ‘Ohana, a family, to kāko’o and kōkua one another. The destruction caused by these fires is heartbreaking, but our community’s resilience and strength will shine through.
I urge everyone to stay safe and heed the advice of local authorities. Let us all do our part to prevent the further spread of the fires and support those on the front lines, working tirelessly to protect our homes and natural treasures.
Hawaii is home to unique and precious natural environments found nowhere else on earth and is a place of deep cultural significance to it’s people. It’s up to us to ensure that it remains a vibrant and thriving environment for generations to come. Let’s stand united, support each other, and work hand in hand to rebuild and restore what has been lost.
Mahalo nui loa for your unwavering love for our islands.
 All my aloha, J

3 hr 42 min ago

US Coast Guard deploys pollution response teams to minimize maritime environmental impact from Maui fires 

From CNN’s Anna-Maja Rappard

The US Coast Guard said its first responders will shift resources to the maritime environmental fallout from the wildfires.
The US Coast Guard said its first responders will shift resources to the maritime environmental fallout from the wildfires. US Coast Guard

The US Coast Guard in Maui has shifted its focus from search and rescue to containing potentially hazardous materials left behind by the fires.

“While the Coast Guard is always postured for search and rescue operations, we are also focused on minimizing maritime environmental impacts as a result of the Maui fires,” US Coast Guard Cmdr. Kyra Dykeman said in a news release Monday. 

The agency said its first responders will shift resources to the fires’ maritime environmental fallout but will remain ready to respond to any new reports of individuals in the water. 

The Coast Guard’s National Strike Force arrived on Maui last Friday to aid in the environmental response. The team includes highly-trained personnel and specialized equipment “to facilitate hazardous substance pollution incidents in order to protect health and the environment,” the release said.

The equipment being used in the new response includes sonar technology and a 100-foot boom placed at the mouth of the Lahaina Harbor, the agency said.  

The shift in resources comes after the Coast Guard rescued at least 17 people last week who had fled into the ocean to escape the inferno that destroyed Maui’s Lahaina community

4 hr 12 min ago

Hawaii officials believe emergency sirens were immobilized by extreme heat from fire, governor says

From CNN’s Raja Razek

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green appears on CNN on Monday, August 14.
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green appears on CNN on Monday, August 14. CNN

Officials believe that emergency sirens on Maui were “essentially immobilized” by the extreme heat of the wildfires that ripped through the island, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said Monday.

“Now, typically we use sirens here for hurricanes and or tsunamis, but we are assessing that,” Green told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

The governor said it is going to take time to figure out what happened and that he asked those investigating to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and NASA in their assessment.

“So, we will get a lot of data. Data not just for the people of Hawaii but for the world,” he said.

Blitzer asked about power lines that were reportedly not shut off when the fire broke out, warning sirens that were not sounded and fire hydrants that ran dry. 

“Your attorney general is currently reviewing the emergency response to this fire. When do you think the people will have more answers on these questions on what went wrong?” Blitzer asked.
The governor replied: “I authorized that comprehensive review with our attorney general immediately — I think on the third day. That is very unusual. Actually, a lot of times people wait months or even years before they look into some of these matters.”

4 hr 48 min ago

How a devastating combination of conditions triggered America’s deadliest wildfire in more than a century

From CNN’s Casey Tolan, Isabelle Chapman and Curt Devine

Shane Treu showed the downed powerlne during a Facebook Live video.
Shane Treu showed the downed powerlne during a Facebook Live video. Shane Treu/Facebook Live

As gale-force winds rushed down the slopes of Maui’s Mauna Kahālāwai mountains early Tuesday morning, Shane Treu stood outside his home with a garden hose — one of the first people in Lahaina to fight what would become America’s deadliest wildfire in more than a century

A power line on his street had been knocked down amid howling winds, Treu said in a Facebook Live video, which showed flames in the grassland across the street and thick smoke obscuring his sweeping ocean view. 

While the cause of the fire has not been determined, observers have pointed to downed power lines, sputtering fire hydrants, and emergency alarms that sat silent as factors that hampered the response to the deadly blaze. 

Now, amid the charred remnants of the disaster, residents and government officials are asking how the fire could have killed at least 99 people and sent others fleeing into the ocean — despite years of warnings that wildfires posed a serious threat to the island. 

Lawsuit alleges power lines a factor: As the fires grew last Tuesday, they were buffeted by extreme winds caused by Hurricane Dora, which was passing hundreds of miles south of Maui. Those winds also battered power lines on the island, and dramatic videos show lines swaying and being toppled in the gusts.  

Bulletins from the county reported downed power lines blocking roads around Lahaina, and some residents fleeing the area said that their escape routes were blocked.  

Now, some locals are casting blame on Hawaiian Electric, the state’s biggest utility, for not shutting off power to high-risk areas — and claiming that its power lines could have sparked the deadly fire. 

Jim Kelly, a spokesperson for Hawaiian Electric Company, said the company does not have a “formal power shutoff program” and that electricity powers the pumps that provide water for firefighting. 

Alarms and fire hydrants: As flames spread through Lahaina, critical systems for evacuating residents and fighting fires — the emergency alerts network and fire hydrants —appeared to break down, failures that are now getting more attention as residents try to figure out what went wrong. 

Officials have said that the speed of the fire through town made it “nearly impossible” to issue advance evacuation orders, as Bradford Ventura, the county fire chief, put it in a Thursday news conference.  

Even the state’s vaunted integrated outdoor siren warning system — the largest in the world, with about 400 alarms — was not activated during the fires, according to Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Adam Weintraub. 

Land conditions and climate change: Even before the winds from Hurricane Dora fed the flames on Maui, a dangerous combination of drought and dry grasses set the stage for the disaster by transforming the island into a tinderbox.  

Like large swaths of the mainland United States, Hawaii is in the midst of a drought, with parts of Maui suffering from severe drought conditions. This has become more extreme and common across the archipelago and others like it in the Pacific, according to the US National Climate Assessment released in 2018. 

People have also introduced nonnative fire-prone grasses and shrubs that now cover nearly a quarter of Hawaii’s total land area.  

Dig deeper.

5 hr 28 min ago

Death toll in Maui wildfires rises to 99, Hawaii governor says

A member of the search and rescue team walks with her cadaver dog near Front Street on Saturday, Aug. 12, in Lahaina, Hawaii.
A member of the search and rescue team walks with her cadaver dog near Front Street on Saturday, Aug. 12, in Lahaina, Hawaii. Rick Bowmer/AP

The death toll from the Maui fires has now risen to 99, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green told CNN.

“It will go up very significantly. We’re exploring all the numbers,” the governor said. He said in the next 10 days, the number of deaths could as much as double.

He said search efforts are continuing and cadaver dogs are looking for remains, but conditions are making progress slow. The dogs at some points could only work for about 15 minutes at a time because the area is still so hot, Green said.

About 85% of the fire in Lahaina is contained, but some embers are still burning.

“It is a tragedy beyond tragedies. We, of course never expected to see this anywhere in America, but we are, you know, we’re burdened by the circumstance of climate change and tragedy at the same time. That is why this fire occurred for the most part,” Green said.

The governor has authorized a comprehensive review “so we have every answer going forward.”

Green and other officials are expected to give an update at 9:30 p.m. ET.

CNN’s Raja Razek contributed reporting to this post.

7 hr 36 min ago

Wildfire damage could cause a local recession as Hawaii activates more National Guard. Here’s the latest

From CNN staff

More members of the Hawaii National Guard have been activated to respond to the wildfires on Maui, the Pentagon said, and Indo-Pacific Command remains poised to respond should a request for more aid come in. 

The Hawaii National Guard has now activated a total of approximately 250 guard members, Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said in a briefing Monday.

The National Guard are working with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and helping local law enforcement.

Meanwhile, Moody’s Analytics reported Monday that the wildfire damage is expected to have an “astronomical” economic impact on the island and cause a severe local recession.

The economic toll could run between $3 billion and $7.5 billion, according to initial estimates released Monday.

While those estimates are smaller than the effects of past major hurricanes, they’re higher than typical for wildfires, given the scale of the disaster and that it hit a fairly populated area with more “ferocity” than many events in California and other states, economists wrote.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Firefighters describe weak water pressure and failing hydrants during defense of Lahaina: Several firefighters trying to contain the flames quickly approaching the historic town of Lahaina last week have described weak water pressure and fire hydrants running dry, complicating an already perilous operation. “There was just no water in the hydrants,” Keahi Ho, one of the firefighters working in Lahaina told the New York Times
  • Hawaii energy company’s stock slips after lawsuit blames wildfires on its power lines: Hawaiian Electric’s stock tumbled to a 13-year low Monday morning, plummeting nearly 40% after a class-action lawsuit filed over the weekend alleged that Maui’s devastating wildfires were caused by the utility’s energized power lines that were knocked down by strong winds.
  • Biden administration commits to helping Maui recovery efforts: President Joe Biden and his administration are committed to supporting Hawaii “every step of the way” following the deadly Maui wildfires, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator Deanne Criswell said Monday during a White House press briefing. Biden is not expected to visit Maui at the moment, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted, but they will work with officials for potential opportunities.
  • Hawaii’s deadly wildfires will be “heavily studied”: The wildfires that tore through the island of Maui and killed 96 people so far, will be “heavily studied” by climate experts as well as US federal research agencies, scientists said.“There will be lots of research that will come out of NOAA in understanding specifically what caused this and the events that we’ve seen,” Sarah Kapnick, chief scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in a call with reporters Monday.
8 hr 11 min ago

Maui wildfires’ “astronomical” economic cost could be between $3 billion and $7.5 billion, Moody’s estimates

From CNN’s Alicia Wallace

Destroyed homes and cars are shown, Sunday, August 13, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii.
Destroyed homes and cars are shown, Sunday, August 13, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii. Rick Bowmer/AP

The devastating and deadly wildfires in Maui are expected to have an “astronomical” economic on the island and cause a severe local recession, Moody’s Analytics reported Monday.

The economic toll could run between $3 billion and $7.5 billion, according to initial estimates released Monday..

“The price tag is astronomical in the context of Maui’s size, as annual output is about $10 billion,” Adam Kamins and Katie Nied, Moody’s Analytics economists, wrote in the research report.

While those estimates are smaller than the effects of past major hurricanes, they’re higher than typical for wildfires, given the scale of the disaster and that it hit a fairly populated area with more “ferocity” than many events in California and other states, economists wrote.

The lion’s share of the economic impact for Maui is driven by property damage, with about $1 billion being attributed to lost output. Initial estimates suggest that more than 2,000 buildings were either destroyed or damaged, Kamins and Nied noted.

“With the median single-family house price in Maui just above $1 million, the effect on the housing stock alone pulls the estimate into the billions,” they wrote. “Combine this with the loss of a couple of hotels and numerous retail shops, most of which are more highly valued than the typical home on the island, and the number climbs considerably.”

They noted vehicle losses and infrastructure damage accounted for most of the rest of the total. The economic impact could have gone much higher had the fire spread to areas outside of Lahaina, where most of the major resorts are located, they added.

In the medium-term, however, the damage from the fires is expected to drive up house prices in what is already the nation’s second-least affordable metro area, according to the report.

In the near-term, the heavily relied-upon tourism income will be severely affected, they noted, adding that the approximately $20 million in daily visitors’ spending will be at risk for at least the next few weeks — if not longer. Job losses will be significant; local and state coffers will take hits from the lost revenue; and a “brief but severe local recession” is anticipated, they added.

The risks extend beyond the island of Maui.

“Many visitors to Hawaii are known to travel to more than one island, which means that the cancellation of entire itineraries will have ripple effects beyond Maui,” they wrote. “Some would-be travelers could also paint all of the Hawaiian Islands with the same broad brush and shy away from visiting, especially after volcanic eruptions on the Big Island in recent years.”

By info

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *