The governor of the U.S. state of Hawaii said many more people could be found dead following wildfires on the island of Maui as the death toll climbs toward 100.
Governor Josh Green told “CBS Mornings” in a recorded interview broadcast Monday, “We are prepared for many tragic stories."
He said search crews are going street by street through the devastated town of Lahaina and said they will likely find 10 to 20 bodies per day. Green said the search will probably take 10 days but said it is “impossible to guess, really.”
Green said the number of missing people has dropped from over 2,000 to about 1,300 as cellphone service has gradually been restored, and people have been able to contact their loved ones.
Maui County officials said late Sunday that multiple fire crews are working to address any remaining flare-ups in the fire that began August 8. The fire was estimated to have burned more than 850 hectares.
The death toll from the blaze stands at 96, making it the deadliest fire in the United States in the last 100 years. The toll has surpassed the 2018 Camp Fire in California, which destroyed the town of Paradise and killed at least 85 people.
Officials say the Maui fire raced as fast as a kilometer a minute across Lahaina and destroyed most of the buildings in the town of 13,000.
Search teams have used cadaver dogs to locate bodies in the town’s ruins. However, Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier said Saturday that search crews had only covered 3% of the search area.
The Pacific Disaster Center and Maui County Emergency Management Agency estimated that 4,500 people were in need of shelter and that the estimated cost of rebuilding from the fire was more than $5.5 billion.
The fire has raised questions about how prepared Hawaii was to battle the threat of wildfires. Residents say sirens stationed around the island — which are meant to warn people of impending disasters — never sounded. Officials have vowed to investigate the cause of the fires and the response of state and local officials.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.