by Leslie Eastman at legalinsurrection.com
Officials also appear to be slow-walking the count of casualties, as the number of declared dead remains under 120….yet 1100 is now the tally of those officially missing.
As the town of Lahaina and the region of West Maui dig through the remains of the wildfire disaster, more disturbing information about the fire response is being uncovered.
Reports now indicated that the only paved road was barricaded as people evacuated.
And car after car was turned back toward the rapidly spreading wildfire by a barricade blocking access to Highway 30.
One family swerved around the barricade and was safe in a nearby town 48 minutes later, another drove their four-wheel-drive car down a dirt road to escape. One man took a dirt road uphill, climbing above the fire and watching as Lahaina burned. He later picked his way through the flames, smoke and rubble to pull survivors to safety.
But dozens of others found themselves caught in a hellscape, their cars jammed together on a narrow road, surrounded by flames on three sides and the rocky ocean waves on the fourth. Some died in their cars, while others tried to run for safety.
“I could see from the bypass that people were stuck on the balconies, so I went down and checked it out,” said Kekoa Lansford, who made several trips into town to look for survivors. What he found was horrible, Lansford said, with dead bodies and flames like a hellish movie scene. “And I could see that people were on fire, that the fire was just being stoked by the wind, and being pushed toward the homes.”
The road closures — some because of the fire, some because of downed power lines — contributed to making historic Lahaina the site of the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century.
During the wildfire that swept through San Diego in 2003, which nearly incinerated my home, the police were driving around until the very last moment announcing mandatory evacuations using loud horns. The efforts kept the loss of life to under 20 people despite the widespread devastation.
Error compounded upon error has compounded the disaster in Maui. I noted that a water board official did not release resources for 5 hours in homage and reverence to equity. Another official failed to sound the alarms, saying Maui residents would have run for the hills, thinking it was a tsunami warning.
It turns out the Maui emergency officials had recently been reminded that sires were also for wildfires.
Before flames tore through Lahaina, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their path, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency had a discussion with counterparts on Maui about the use of sirens to let residents know they should flee.
HNN Investigates confirmed an assistant telcom officer working at the state emergency management office “reminded” his counterpart at the Maui Emergency Management Agency that sirens could be used to alert residents of wildfires.
The state says this happened prior to the catastrophic blaze that swept through Lahaina town.
Despite that discussion, sirens remained silent — and Maui’s emergency management office defended that decision by saying that activating the alarms could have confused people.
The director of the office has since resigned.Officials also appear to be slow-walking the count of casualties, as the number of declared dead remains under 120….yet 1100 is now the tally of those officially missing.
The unconfirmed list of missing people has risen to 1,100 names, two weeks after a deadly blaze ripped through the historic Hawaiian town of Lahaina.
Authorities have confirmed 115 deaths following the deadliest wildfire in more than a century in the United States. They also pleaded with relatives of those missing to come forward and give DNA samples, saying the low number provided so far threatens to hinder efforts to identify any remains discovered in the ashes.
Families of the missing are now being asked to provide DNA samples for the identification of remains. Officials are troubled by the lack of cooperation on this matter.
Maui Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Martin, who is running the center, said that the number of family members coming in to provide DNA samples is “a lot lower” than in other major disasters around the country, though it wasn’t immediately clear why.
“That’s our concern, that’s why I’m here today, that’s why I’m asking for this help,” he said.
Martin and French sought to reassure people that any samples would be used only to help identify fire victims and would not be entered into any law enforcement databases or used for any other purpose. People will not be not asked about their immigration status or citizenship, they said.
“What we want to do — all we want to do — is help people locate and identify their unaccounted-for loved ones,” Martin said.
Perhaps the sad explanation is that there is nobody left in those families to donate.