The search for missing people continues in Hawaii a week after wildfires broke out on the island of Maui, causing widespread destruction.
Maui County confirmed that 99 people died in the fire, making the fires the deadliest in more than a century in United States history.
On Tuesday, the Hawaii national guard activated hundreds of troops to help respond to the disaster. Hundreds of people remain missing as firefighters continue to battle the blaze.
Officials warned, however, that the death toll could rise significantly as search teams working with cadaver dogs scan the charred areas.
The White House said Tuesday that it is mobilizing a “robust whole-of-government response effort to support immediate and long-term rescue and recovery efforts on Maui”.
Later in the day, President Joe Biden announced that he and his wife Jill Biden will visit Hawaii as soon as possible.
“I want to go and make sure we have everything we need. I want to make sure we don’t disrupt the recovery efforts,” he said.
I assure the Governor that Hawai’i will continue to have everything it needs from… pic.twitter.com/dE7awuUUU5
– President Biden (@POTUS) August 15, 2023
Several fires, fueled by strong winds and dry conditions, broke out on Tuesday last week and were largely contained. It remains unclear what exactly triggered them.
Thousands of survivors were displaced by the fires, the worst of which destroyed much of the historic town of Lahaina. Here are some of the victims’ stories.
As television footage showed the flames engulfing Lahaina, all Donna Hartley thought about was her brother. But Carole Hartley didn’t pick up her phone.
“I told my husband that if it burns like this, then Carole’s house is gone,” the 62-year-old Alabama resident told The Associated Press news agency.
Two days later, his brother’s colleague called. The news is bad. He tells her that he was in the front yard loading his car, and Carole was in the back yard, when the wind blew the fire away. The car exploded.
Carole’s partner gathers a group of friends for a search party. On Saturday night, Donna Hartley heard the news that she had found her brother’s body, including his watch. He is still waiting for official DNA verification. His sister has lived in Lahaina for 36 years.
“His birthday is August 28 and he’s 61 years old,” Donna Hartley said. “He kept telling me late: one more year, sister and I will retire.”
‘Our grief is indescribable’
A family of four — Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone, Salote Takafua and his son Tony Takafua — died while trying to flee from the fire. Their bodies were found on Thursday in a burnt car near their home.
“The depth of our grief is indescribable,” read a statement from family members.
Lylas Kanemoto, who knows the Tone family, confirmed the devastating news on Sunday.
“At least we have closure for them, but the loss and grief is unbearable for many,” Kanemoto told The Associated Press via text message. “We, as a community, [have] to just hug each other and support our families, friends and our community as much as we can.”
Kanemoto is still waiting for news about his cousin, Glen Yoshino, who is missing.
“I’m afraid he’s gone because we haven’t heard from him, and he’s looking for a way to contact the family,” Kanemoto said. “We hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”
‘A good man’
Retired fire captain Geoff Bogar and his friend of 35 years, Franklin Trejos, initially stayed to help others in Lahaina and save Bogar’s home. But as the fire got closer on Tuesday afternoon, they knew they had to escape.
Each fled to his own vehicle. When Bogar’s car stopped working, he broke the window to get out and crawled on the ground until he was found by police patrolling. He was immediately taken to the hospital.
Trejos did not escape.
When Bogar returned the next day, he found the bones of his 68-year-old friend in the back seat of his car, lying on top of the remains of his beloved three-year-old golden retriever, Sam, which he had. trying to protect.
Trejos, a native of Costa Rica, lived for years with Bogar and his wife, Shannon Weber-Bogar, helping her with her seizures when her husband was unable to.
“God took away a good man,” Weber-Bogar said.