Hawaii fires: Questions remain

By HENG WEILI and AI HEPING in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-08-16 10:09
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Charred remains of a burned neighbourhood is seen in the aftermath of a wildfire, in Lahaina, western Maui, Hawaii on August 14, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

The death toll on the Hawaiian island of Maui from the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century rose to 106 confirmed dead, as residents seek answers and express anger that government inaction contributed to the heavy loss of life.

Some survivors in Lahaina, the historic coastal town that was almost entirely destroyed by the fast-moving inferno on Aug 8 and Aug 9, said there had been no warnings.

Others have complained that the government response has been lacking and that survivors' crucial needs are going unmet. There are questions about whether wildfire warnings were loud enough and early enough and whether government officials were adequately prepared.

Fueled by winds gusting up to 80 miles (128 km) per hour, the inferno reached temperatures of 1,000 degrees F (538 C) when it raced on Aug 8 from the dry grasslands outside into Lahaina, a town that had 13,000 residents.

The deadly blaze destroyed or damaged more than 2,200 buildings, 86 percent of them residential, causing an estimated $5.5 billion in damage, authorities said.

Only a few residents have been permitted back into Lahaina to visit their properties. Maui County had briefly relaxed restrictions but quickly suspended the visits on Monday after curiosity seekers crowded streets being used by rescue workers, officials said.

"For those people who have walked into Lahaina because they really wanted to see, know that they're very likely walking on iwi," Governor Josh Green said at a news conference on Maui, using the Hawaiian word for bones.

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