The death toll from last week’s wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui has reached 93, making it the deadliest conflagration in modern U.S. history, and officials say they expect the count to continue to climb.
Maui Police Chief John Pelletier in the western-most U.S. state in the Pacific Ocean said two of the victims have been identified, but he did not release their names.
Identifying the fragile, burned remains has been difficult, Pelletier said Saturday. “We pick up the remains,” he said, “and they fall apart.”
Saturday was the first day that cadaver-sniffing dogs were used to help find more victims.
“The entire historic town of Lahaina burned to the ground,” Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono told CNN’s “State of the Union” show Sunday. “We are in a period of shock and loss.”
But she said that some people feared missing have been found safe in emergency shelters.
“We know that recovery will be long,” she said. “That recovery will take years.”
Island residents have complained that 80 sirens across Maui designed to warn them of an emergency were never activated as the fire steadily spread last Wednesday. Hawaii Governor Josh Green has promised there will be an investigation into the island’s emergency response.
Hirono said, “I’m not going to make any excuses for this tragedy. I can’t even tell you how fast these flames spread.”
She said the immediate focus is “on rescue and [the] discovery of more bodies.”