Hawaii fire: Death toll rises to 67 as firefighting efforts continue

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by Jack Birle at washingtonexaminer.com

Officials on the island of Maui in Hawaii say the death toll from wildfires on the island has increased to 67 people as the Lahaina fire continues to burn.

The death toll was increased by 12 people on Friday from the previous 55 accounted for Thursday, and officials in Maui say the fire has not been contained. Despite the firefight, access to west Maui was reopened on a limited basis to residents from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time.

“West Maui remains without power and water, and search crews continue efforts in the Lahaina town area for victims of the brush fire. Limited access into Lahaina, with no access into the restricted zone of historic Lahaina town, will be in effect until hazardous conditions improve,” the county of Maui said in a press release on Friday.

Officials are also warning those returning to west Maui to wear protective materials, exercise caution, and wash salvaged items with “clean water and soap.”

State Attorney General Anne Lopez announced on Friday that her office would be conducting a “comprehensive review” of decision-making and policies “leading up to, during, and after the wildfires” in the state this week.

“The Department of the Attorney General shares the grief felt by all in Hawaiʻi, and our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy,” Lopez said in a statement on Friday.

“My Department is committed to understanding the decisions that were made before and during the wildfires and to sharing with the public the results of this review. As we continue to support all aspects of the ongoing relief effort, now is the time to begin this process of understanding,” Lopez added.

Gov. Josh Green (D-HI) said on Thursday that the wildfires will “likely” be the largest natural disaster in the history of the 50th state.

“It’s going to take a great deal of time to recover from this, but we have the support from every level of government all the way up to the federal level, especially given President Biden’s approval of my disaster declaration request today. It will be a tremendous effort, but we will come together as a community and begin working toward rebuilding from this tragedy,” he added.

The wildfire, which broke out on Tuesday in Maui, is already one of the deadliest in U.S. history. The 2018 Camp Fire, which affected Paradise, California, killed 85 people, making it the deadliest in the past 100 years.

The blaze is believed to have been exacerbated by strong winds from Hurricane Dora and dry conditions throughout the state. The White House said on Wednesday it would send “all available Federal assets on the Islands” to help battle the flames.

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